Myco Musings

I indulged only in an occasional beer, glass of wine, or cocktail for close to 50 years, until my recent participation in a psilocybin retreat. In college, I had taken psilocybin several times and smoked a bit of marijuana. However, any illegal substances would have endangered my husband’s education and physician’s license, and likely wouldn’t have helped me as I pursued a DrPH. I let illicit substances go. Fifty years later, my routine reading included articles in the Baltimore Sun and the New Yorker on psilocybin, but I paid only moderate attention until our Annus Horribilis.

On December 26, 2015, Fred and I were driving to a week-long English Country Dance Camp. We spent the night in Morgantown WV to break up the trip, and were rested and caffeinated. Traffic was light and the sky was overcast; a perfect day for driving. We were travelling 70 mph south on Route 79 out of Morgantown for about a half-hour when the car in front of me pulled into the left lane. I made a mental note that I had plenty of distance to the next car. Then I hit it. BANG! Air bags exploded, windshield shattered, car was totaled. I could not believe we were alive. I got out and ran around to Fred’s side. He staggered to the guard rail. Medics were there almost instantly. His chest hurt. I climbed in the ambulance carrying Fred and we were taken, not to the local hospital, but back to Morgantown to the University Hospital. Fred’s sternum was broken and 5 ribs. For me, one rib broken and a knee banged up. Blessings to all automotive safety engineers.

The car we hit had been stopped dead in the right lane. The young ladies who had been driving it said “we were standing on the side WAVING to warn the traffic.” Why were they parked in the middle of the interstate? Why didn’t they pull over, or coast to the side? I have no idea. At least they had the common sense to get out of the car. According to WVA law, I was at fault.

We lay low for a while. Spent a lot of time staring at fires in the fireplace. Bought a new car. Kept our regular visits with Fred’s Parkinson’s doctor at Hopkins. Fred had a couple of cataract operations. I was seeing a doctor for what felt like water in my ear and was given antibiotics, steroids, ear lancing, and so on.

Then this thing began to grow on Fred’s chest: fast. He went to visit his friend the bone surgeon…Fred is recently retired from diagnosing bone cancer for a living. Next was our Die Horribilis. In the morning Fred was diagnosed with a rapidly growing cancer requiring intensive treatment. In the afternoon, we learned that I needed my head opened up. There was a hole in my skull between brain and middle ear. The “water” in my ear was really cerebro-spinal fluid.

One step at a time. Fred was treated with inpatient chemo. For three months he endured one week of helpful poisons followed by two weeks at home getting strong enough for the next batch of lovely poisons. I got to sit and watch him get chemo, recover, chemo, recover… and unspool the plans for our trip with daughter and son-in-law to Hawaii…and take myself off for MRIs, lumbar punctures, visits the neurologist, hours of eye exams and hearing tests.

As we head into autumn…well, first I count my blessings every day from morning to night. They are many, many, many. Then I think, “next year’s got to be better.” I turn 67 and Fred 70. I am scheduled for surgery at Hopkins on December 21…almost exactly one year after our crash.

Sometime in November, I call to mind those articles on psilocybin, and it crosses my mind that it might help Fred deal with the cancer. He’s a stoic Midwesterner, and they are not inclined to breast-beating or grandstanding, so I’m wondering if he’s really coming to grips with the CA and Parkinson’s. I print out everything I can find about psilocybin research and we read it together. I ask Fred if he’s interested in seeing whether the Hopkins study needs subjects. “Nope.” Eventually he asks, but they don’t need subjects.

I’m pondering, and thinking, gosh, if I didn’t have my 95-y-o mother to care for, and we didn’t have all of this illness mucking up our retirement, I might go somewhere psilocybin is legal and start a health spa…you know, massage, meditation, psychedelic drugs. Then a lightbulb goes on: If I can think of this, someone’s doing it, and Google knows who that is. I look on line and find Eric’s psilocybin-based retreats…YES! I ask Fred if he’s interested. “Nope.” Then he asks his neurologist about participation and is cautioned that there is no clinical data on the effects of psilocybin on those with Parkinson’s, so this is not advisable.

Well shoot, I’m interested. As I head into surgery (please note lame pun), I hope and expect to come out reasonably whole, but I’m aware that I’ve signed a paper acknowledging death as a possible outcome. I want to hold a carrot in front of myself: plans to go a place so different from the Annus Horribilis—a total re-boot.

It’s nice to share this kind of experience with a companion, so I call friends, adventurous sixty-somethings fresh back from a couple of years serving as Peace Corps Volunteers. Who would be more open to an unusual adventure than a couple who had spent the past year living in a room so small only one could get dressed at a time? They do some reading, call Eric and ask a lot of questions to make sure he’s on the up and up and knows what he’s about, seem excited, then one decides against coming, so they’re not joining us. I ask Fred if he’ll travel and sit with me, and he’s kind enough to say “yes.” Our trip is scheduled exactly at the end of my surgical recovery.

I come out of surgery, and find I’m still about evenly matched with Fred playing Bananagrams, so my brain isn’t gone. My hearing returns after a few weeks and eight weeks after surgery we are good to go.

A little over three hours flying and we’re in Jamaica looking for our ride. We hang out for about three hours, drinking Red Stripe and talking about how we found this retreat with other members of the group as they arrive. Already waiting is A, a quiet, almost diffident young African-American 20-something man who looks a little nervous. Then comes B, a super-energetic and friendly 50-something man with an infected thumb. Next C a cheerful woman who says she has Stage 4 breast cancer, which had leveled her with depression. She hadn’t moved from the couch in months until a friend gave her some psilocybin, and she felt her depression lifting. Her companion D is a life-long friend; these women have supported each other through some hard times. Next are E and F, a loving couple consisting of a middle-aged man with a younger Vietnamese companion. G arrives, a vivacious southerner. It would be rude to guess her age, but she would probably tell you…she is very open about her life, and is just coming out of a dangerous and painful marriage. H comes in from Europe. She says she has been fighting psychic pain for so long she’s exhausted. She and B trade experiences with ayahuasca in Peru. Finally, J ,who’s stayed overnight near the airport, arrives completing the complement of retreat participants. There is not one person on this retreat for kicks; all seek healing. We hop in a van, except for J who has a claustrophobia-induced panic attack and hops right back out, grabbing her luggage on the way.

A long bumpy ride later, we arrive at our hotels, are provided with a meal by our hostess, and go to bed. We awake to find ourselves in a spacious, Spartan, but pleasant room with a bath and a couple of porches. It much reminds me of the deliberately-simple summer camp I attended as a child, except that we appreciate the indoor plumbing. When applying for this retreat, I specifically chose simplicity over comfort—I wanted to be away from our normal routine. Others in the group have chosen upgraded lodgings. Between Fred’s balance issues and my bum knee, we are pleased to find that our simple room does not require the short hike the others take several times a day. We are housed where meals are served and near the beach where the ceremonies take place. This is a non-tourist locale, the weather is perfect with a sea enticing me to take several swims a day. I am so content with the interesting company, new ideas, tropical breezes and foods, and warm sea, with lots of rest and reading time, my expectations have already been met.

Days are taken with conversation, meals, swimming or walking, herbal sweats, massage therapy, and a short presentation by our guides, while ceremonies are held during three evenings, with a rest day between ceremonies. The presentation highlights the history of people’s interactions with psychedelic mushrooms. We are also given instruction for approaching the ceremonial experience. Most important instruction is “don’t run.” Don’t run physically, and don’t run from whatever you encounter. We will be exploring our inner selves, and many of us have been holding on to, often nurturing, our sources of pain. We may have difficult experiences, but these often give the greatest gifts. Best to respond to what we encounter openly and directly. The guides talk of experiences their daemons, and with the divine when they let go of their “I,” their ego. It is likely that we will be given some kind of new perspective on the issues troubling us.

We all share our stories. These are deep conversations; there is very little small talk. We are fortunate that, although we each need healing, there are no whiners and no one with negative attitude sucking the air out of the tropics.

Our guides are seasoned, knowledgeable, intuitive, and cautious. Like the ten of us who have travelled to Jamaica for this experience, all three guides have come to mushrooms for healing. Their dedication is extraordinary—they have sacrificed to this calling—that’s another whole story. This is not easy work, but the benefits they have experienced and witnessed keep them involved.

Our first ceremony will establish a baseline of tolerance to the medicine. The amount each person takes is based on their weight, the experienced judgement of the guide, and a conversation between guide and participant. Fairly small doses are given, and responses used to gauge the dose at the next ceremony. We’re told that the second ceremony is typically the highest dose, as we will need to travel the day following the third ceremony.

Ceremony 1—2.5 grams

We walk down to the beach, where a tent is set up, carrying chairs or pads to rest on, music if we wish, and water bottles. I take the medicine (capsules of dried psilocybin), chat for a while with the others, and settle. The guides quietly walk among us throughout the ceremonies, ensuring all is well. I close my eyes and repeat the mantra I was given 50 years ago when my sister introduced me to Transcendental Meditation.

I briefly see a luminous blue spikey sea urchin.

This is followed by a samurai in shining solid gold armor encrusted with gems that cast a rainbow of colors. I approach him wondering what he has to teach me. He fades.

Then, off to the left, I see an image of Maria Sabina. I weep for her pain…not the pain of her starvation and death, but the pain of being rejected by the community where she had been a beloved shaman. I also weep for the pain of her community, angry when their culture was appropriated by non-tribal people who did not respect their traditions.

Off to the right, I see an image of the serpent in the garden and am given to understand that God’s anger was not because people received knowledge, but because people split things that were one into “good” and “evil.”

After a time I am asked if I am willing to jump into a “well.” The top of the well (above ground) is made of coiled rope, but I have no sense of how deep the well goes. I respond “sure,” but the well fades away.

I return to the beach. After we are mostly back from our journeys, we sit around and share, and I find out my husband has traveled all the way to Jamaica only to watch his wife lie on a beach hallucinating. He is quite unusual in having felt no effects of the psilocybin.

Two days later, Ceremony 2—4.5 grams

I sit in a chair listening to an oboe concerto while waiting for the medicine to take effect. I close my eyes and see a field of oboe bells in grey tones. I ponder whether the Hindi coiled snake, Kundalini, is related to Native American digestive tract imagery.

I feel a strong urge to lie down, which I do. I briefly acknowledge a thirty-foot high African king made of colorful wooden rings, like those that very small children delight in stacking on posts.

Then I am pinned to the ground…immobilized rather aggressively, as though my back had many times normal gravity. This is not gentle and goes on for a long time. Eventually I communicate that if the mushroom needs my breath too, it can take it…it can take whatever it needs.

After some time the pinning relaxes and I am in a tug-of-war for my “I,” which looks like a luminous disc. I realize it is a mistake to be clinging to my “I,” and try to push it away. But then I realize that I am acting with agency trying to push now rather than pull, and that neither is helping me to release my “I,” so I start laughing at myself for being so foolish and missing such an opportunity.

A few other brief images come to me…from the left a female whose head ended in a brightly colored rainbow crown. She asks if she can come into my head and I embrace that. From the right there a small king whom I am to walk through, but that image fades.

I come out of the first wave of the medicine, and watch a satellite cross the night sky. I get up and sit in a chair expecting to wait for the others to emerge from their experiences. Instead, I close my eyes and a second wave comes over me.

I am given to understand that “we are going to a difficult place.” We travel there together. Visually it is not much…the corner of a low wall, but I am weeping and my nose is running, because it is such a very difficult place. I consider how I/we shall address this difficult place and am given to understand that it must be faced directly, completely, honestly, and that it must be addressed with compassion, including compassion to myself. I weep a lot and emerge with my face wet with tears.

As I sit and recover from this very intense experience, I know that I have a lot of difficult places to go to…my close friend Walter is very sick, my mother is 95 and her memory is fading, and Fred has a degenerative neurological disease, so the understanding that I must look these difficulties in the eye and address them with compassion, including compassion for myself, is helpful. Again, Fred reports no effect of the medicine. None of us knows why; are the effects of his chemo interfering, is the Parkinson’s, is it genetic?

Two days later, Ceremony 3—5 grams

Earlier in the day, I learn that my friend has died. We knew he was sick, but he thought he had several years, and I had hoped to take other family members to visit. I sit for a while and then close my eyes. I see three dolphins up on their back fins. They invite me to play so I become a dolphin and swim with them. Then I swim alone for a while and get a clear message that this will be a gentle voyage, a kindness acknowledging my loss. I swim again with the others. The waves make me need to go to the bathroom, so a guide escorts me there and back and I sit down.

I am given to understand that I should lie down, so I do, and have a dialogue with Walter. I am weeping and telling him goodbye, and wishing him god-speed to the arms of his beloved Jesus. I tell him I must go and do some other work, and a red curtain slowly covers the sky and me.

I brush off a bug on my leg and slap at a mosquito by my ear. Then a very large moth, maybe 25 feet high hovers over me. She has the kindest, most loving, smiling face. She wraps me in a cocoon which is warm and safe and holds me there for a long time until I feel comforted, grateful, and relaxed. Then she sets me down and I lie still for a time.

I get up from my pad on the beach and sit in the chair. I rest for a bit and wait. After a while, the mushroom sends me three large slug-like creatures, each maybe the size of a small loaf of bread. They eat at my stomach for a long time. I am not afraid, I am grateful. This is not painful but also not particularly pleasant. Toward the end of their munching, a neon green dagger is thrust under my breastbone. It cuts out something which is also a luminous lime green.

I come up from this experience, and open my eyes. I spend some time watching the guides try to light a fire. It has rained several times during this session, so the wood is wet, but I find it hilarious that they are struggling so hard, and love them for trying. I also really am done with slugs, so I stagger over to the fire pit and explain that I am done. I go back and get my chair to bring near the fire in case Fred wants to come over. On my return, I realize that the guides are helping H through grave difficulty. I ask Johnathan to please check on Fred, and sit down in the sand near H. She says she needs female energy and expresses gratitude that I am there. The guides work with her, supporting her and providing things she needs, as she works through her pain. I keep in constant physical touch with her. At first I am present to her, on my side facing her, up on my elbow but then I am called to lie down with my head on one of the fire pit rocks. As she works through her difficult time, sometimes I am present for her, and at other times my I is gone, and what is left is a conduit for the female energy she needs, it simply flows through me to her. It is a great gift and honor to have served as conduit for healing energy. We do not have much conversation after this ceremony, as the work with H takes quite some time and most have gone to bed. I am glad to hear that Fred has had a mild hallucinogenic experience…words coming out of him like string and making themselves into a knot, which he watched until he got bored!

What to make of these experiences? I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I believe I am very susceptible to images, as I had seen things similar to many of the hallucinogenic images shortly before the experiences. For example, I had purchased a gift of a wooden dolphin dancing on its back flipper shortly before seeing that image.

The guides tell me that there are often guards at the gates of these experiences, which could explain the spikey entity, the samurai, the king. The pinning down also felt like a challenge…was I prepared to let the mushroom call the shots?

The image of Maria Sabina has given me a lot of empathy both for those who are ostracized and for the pain that causes people to be cruel to one another. Other participants reported frightening images which, when faced, were followed by gifts. The comforting moth was very powerful, and I am comforted yet. The message from going to the difficult place has also remained; I approach difficulties, such as the death of my friend, by facing them head on with compassion for others and for myself. It would be lovely if the entities eating my stomach help me manage my nervous appetite; we shall see. As for channeling energy to help another, that was a transcendent experience which I can not describe except to say that it was an honor and a privilege for which I am boundlessly grateful.

As I ponder our incredible week, I can only mourn the wasted decades when research into this powerful medicine was curtailed. Fred and I are old enough that we could not wait the decades that are now needed for solid scientific research into many aspects of psilocybin. What ailments, both physical and mental can psilocybin help? Which varieties of mushrooms are best for what types of issues? Much of that type of knowledge based on thousands of years of usage has been lost. Would research help us understand more about appropriate dosing—for example whether it is genetics, chemotherapy after-effects or Parkinson’s that made Fred so resistant? What characteristics make a good guide, and what training is useful? Our guide is doing follow-up questions, but carefully controlled double-blind studies are in order.

And then there’s the quiet concern that, if a powerful healing agent is lying on the ground, costing nothing, what will Big Pharma do?

A New Member at MycoMeditations

Hey everyone!

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?”

Then eventually..

“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 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.

For the Rookie, the Pilot, and the Psychonaut.

One of the things that seems to intrigue me the most about MycoMeditations is how these retreats seem to bring together such a wide variety of people. Just the other month we had a guy from New York, who had never even smoked cannabis before, taking 6+ grams of mushrooms by the end of the retreat right next to somebody who routinely smokes DMT and has reached beyond universal/cosmic confines. How exactly do such different groups manage to come together and not interfere with each other’s experience when everyone is in such a different place? The common belief is that psilocybin only gives people what they can handle, and it shows with it all managing to work together perfectly, bringing to each person exactly what they need. So how does it work this way?

In this article I am going to try and go through what a psilocybin experience may bring for each group…

The Rookie. Somebody who’s only introduction to mind-altering substances may only be alcohol or cannabis.

The Pilot. Somebody who is comfortable with something like cannabis and has maybe tried psilocybin or other psychedelics recreationally.

The Psychonaut. Somebody who has let psychedelics show them the far ranges of consciousness and has willingly (or unwillingly) had all concepts of reality go up in flames.

Let’s begin.

The Rookie

When you haven’t done something like psilocybin, or any psychedelic in general…it is almost as if you are only capable of seeing things through our everyday worldview, which is thinking of things based on life on Earth, it’s people, environment, places, cultures, politics, etc. Your mind hasn’t really had an opportunity to expand beyond what is occurring throughout this world on a day-to-day basis to you, your family, your friends, or to anyone anywhere in the rest of the world in general. Your worldview only exists within THIS world, within THIS reality.

Wait, how does this make any sense? Isn’t reality a state of realness, meaning it is the only real thing? How things ACTUALLY exist? Of course there isn’t another way of existing than the way we exist every minute of every day for our entire lives.

Well truth be told, there is definitely more to existence than this current reality. There is an entire world invisibly interwoven within our own, every bit as real as this one. What we see on an everyday basis is existing through a filter. Our eyes only see certain ranges of light, our ears only hear certain frequencies…these are filters. There is actually an entire other filter that blocks the true connectedness of everything that exists. And it is really remarkable to discover this for the first time, because it brings to you such a strong, mind-shifting recognition that stays with you forever once you realize this.

Psychedelics are basically a key to this realization. And with this key can come a lot of stunning realizations that can change the way you see the world forever. Obviously in doing this, they are clearly strong substances…sometimes they can cause feelings of discomfort for various things personally. However, this is all a part of the puzzle I guess you could say…

The Pilot

If you have done psychedelics a couple times, maybe with friends out somewhere on a hike or at the lake, you have probably gotten a glimpse into what is explained above. There is a state of being all around us that is so awesomely connecting and inspiring, and it is incredible to have experienced this for yourself. You may have experienced a feeling of extreme connection with those around you, unlike anything you have felt before. It is a feeling that gets etched into you forever.

Or maybe you have done psychedelics, and had some experiences that were almost too much to handle. By feeling this, you may have realized that psychedelics can really play with the mind and can cause really noticeable changes in perception, and this isn’t always easy to understand or wrap your head around, and they can sometimes show you very scary things.

Why is that?

Well psychedelic literally translates to “manifest of the mind”. Which implies that parts of the mind aren’t actually always available to you.

Psychedelics can take you on a journey throughout many areas of your mind that you didn’t know existed. And this is what makes them so powerful to heal with. They can bring up thoughts, feelings, or experiences that you didn’t even know were elements of you. With this you are able to recognize and learn incredible things about yourself…whether this is through unlocking something that has been hidden away from your past, or by gaining new insights to something you were already aware of as psychedelics give you the ability to rapidly form new brain connections.

The incredible feeling of connection to the universe and to everything around you can be healing, but so can some of these uncomfortable truths about yourself. The healing can be beautiful, but it can also be very hard. Nonetheless, psychedelics give you what you need.

The Psychonaut

In a general sense, a psychonaut is somebody who explores these states of consciousness for personal and spiritual purposes. Through a ton of experience, they can slowly piece together how this all fits within itself and what it all actually means.

The psychedelic experience is never ending however, and it can continually act as a source of enrichment in people’s lives. When you become more and more comfortable maneuvering amongst these states, it eventually gives it more of a feeling of exploration…like you are willingly going on adventure where you have a general idea of what sorts of things you may like to explore, but at the same time having no idea where the hell you’re actually going to end up. You can continue to experience personal stuff if you like, or you can try to reach areas that bring you outside of yourself, where you cease to exist. This area has it’s very own zone of lessons and knowledge that you can bring back once your shattered ego slowly begins to put itself back together, providing it with new pieces of insight to add to you.

Overall, all MycoMeditations aims to do is give each person, no matter what their stage, exactly what they need to come out the other side of their psilocybin experience a better person. Whether this is exploring what it means to live in a world that seems different from the world you are used to, witnessing the beauty of cosmic connection, realizing new things about yourself, overcoming damaging experiences in your life and moving on, or questioning everything you have ever thought possible…our facilitators know that this is your exact experience and unique only to you. We are simply here to help make this process as beneficial as possible for you.

We really hope that we are able to aid in more and more of these life-changing experiences for people, and hope to see you down in Treasure Beach, Jamaica with us one day.

A Family Trip: Four Journeys with the Psilocybe Cubensis Mushroom

In January of 2017 I reached out to Eric Osborne of concerning a psilocybin mushroom inspired family retreat he planned to host in Jamaica for June 14-22. Initially my wife and I planned to go by ourselves while our daughter Bogyeong (aka “BG” or “Ashley”) was in Korea visiting relatives, but we began wondering if perhaps she might also benefit from the experience. I knew how powerful and profound psilocybin could be because of my participation in research on the confluence of psilocybin and meditation at Johns Hopkins in 2015, and I wanted my whole family to enjoy such an experience. I asked Eric what effects on young people he had noticed as regarded psilocybin. He responded: “Younger people are often… inspired to become more socially active after a retreat such as this, older individuals tend to become more intensely aware of the value of time. Most everyone gains a new respect for family and community” (private communication, January 11, 2017). We decided to ask BG if she would like to go with us to Jamaica to experience magic mushrooms. This required me to tell her about my previous experiences, of which she knew nothing.

I gave her the first report I’d written for Johns Hopkins, which she read with no small measure of surprise and bewilderment. When asked if she’d like to try psilocybin herself, she at first hesitated. I offered her some additional facts I thought would reassure her, such as: • humans have been consuming psychoactive mushrooms for thousands of years without apparent ill effects. In fact, mushrooms are found abundantly in religious iconography, showing up on pre-historic rock art (e.g., at Tassili in Algeria)1 and perhaps as the sacramental substance (soma) described in the world’s oldest religious text, the Rig Veda of India (c. 1700-1100 BCE);2 • psilocybin is not only not addictive, but is now being clinically explored (e.g., at Johns Hopkins and NYU) for the treatment of addictions to legal drugs such as alcohol and nicotine (i.e. smoking cessation);3 • additionally, psilocybin is under investigation as a treatment for common depression and for people facing end-of-life anxiety with terminal illnesses (again, at Johns Hopkins and other institutions);4 • the toxicity of caffeine far exceeds that of psilocybin, and while deaths from the world’s most popular drug are commonplace5, when I asked Roland Griffiths, the lead scientist in the Johns Hopkins study, about psilocybin related deaths, he could only come up with one possible example, but that involved significant complicating health factors such as heart and blood pressure conditions. (Psilocybin is known to temporarily raise the blood pressure.) It is hardly possible to die from psilocybin— though this is not to say you will always have an enjoyable time while using it.

In other words, while psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I substance along with such life destroying drugs as heroin and cocaine, the verdict of science is that psilocybin is not only not physically dangerous, it is therapeutically promising—and this does not even consider the traditional use of magic mushrooms as sacraments for healing and transcendence. After some consideration, Bogyeong decided to join and we signed up for the retreat. Five months later the retreat happened. Both my daughter and wife experienced profound and positive effects from their four “trips,” accounts of which I hope will be the subjects of separate write ups. For the rest of this account, however, I will focus on what I experienced and the meaning I derived from those experiences.

The Setting The retreat was centered around four separate ceremonies taking place on the evenings of June 15, 17, 19 and 21. It was led by Eric Osborne and his associate Jonathan Thompson, host of and himself an experienced psychonaut who had partnered with Eric on a previous retreat in Jamaica. (Psilocybin, among other psychoactive drugs such as cannabis, is legal in Jamaica.) In addition to my family of three, the retreatants included siblings Matt and Julie, a middle-aged couple Jason and Ben with two non-participating children ages 10 and 14, and Eric’s 14-year-old son Jacob. On ceremony evenings we met and discussed our intentions—i.e. what we specifically hoped to learn during the trip—as well as any other issues or concerns that might affect us. Each retreatant then decided with Eric on an appropriate dose, considering such factors as prior history with psilocybin, personal concerns, and, for sessions two, three and four, the experience of the previous trip. My intentions were twofold.

First, I had recently made a significant decision not to pursue a yoga studio business for which I had purchased a franchise. This was a major career choice, in effect altering my line of work and economic disposition for the next decade. I was concerned, though, to use my free time before retirement (expected at age 59) in the best possible way, and I had two options available to me. One was to resume my fiction writing, the other was to dedicate as much time as possible to spiritual endeavors—meditation, yoga, and perhaps, a relationship with psychedelics. I wanted to know the best options for my life. The second intention was to remove what I felt were mental blockages in me, preventing progress in meditation and general spiritual and emotional development. I knew psychedelics could prove helpful with this, and indeed, that had been my goal at Johns Hopkins. While that experience proved revelatory, I discovered that one good “trip” was just not enough to really break through whatever obstructions I was dealing with. I needed stronger—or more—medicine. The “medicine” was dispensed by Eric via gel caps containing 500 mgs of dried Psilocybe cubensis, probably the most commonly consumed psychoactive mushroom in the world. Eric was very pleased with the batch, which he described as potent yet gentle in its onset. I began with a dose of 4 grams (i.e. 8 caplets). According to the psychedelics resource website, P. cubensis contains on average 0.63% psilocybin dried, meaning I was ingesting probably around 25 mgs of psilocybin, a “strong” dose.7 (By comparison, I had deduced that my first session at Johns Hopkins was in the 20-25 mgs range, which they described as a “moderate-to-heavy” dose.)

The site of our first ceremony was inside, on the second floor of the main guest house of the bed and breakfast we were staying in. I lay down on a loveseat, others lay on couches or yoga mats on the floor. We did not have any music.

Trip #1 (June 15)

My experience during the first session was similar in many respects to what happened at Johns Hopkins, though the phenomena came in different orders than previously, and overall it felt slightly stronger. The initial sensations began not in my head, but in my face—a feeling of the flesh being peeled back. I carry a lot of tension in my face, especially my jaw, and I interpreted this as a sort of radical relaxation response initiated by the medicine. As the session progressed, I had more and more the feeling of my body being eaten from within—by vines or bugs or little aliens. The odd thing about all of this was I felt totally okay with it! I did not feel alarmed or anxious as my body was “consumed” and became progressively more relaxed. In fact, through part of the session I practiced metta bhavana (“loving-kindness meditation”), wherein I extended thoughts of love and goodwill to myself and others. I also thanked my teachers, the mushrooms, for what they had given me in the past and were giving me now. I told myself that whatever happened would be for the better. The session was not without its problems, though these were externally caused, not because of the medicine. In general, the other retreatants seemed unsettled. There was a lot of getting up and moving around, with doors opening and slamming shut (from the wind). Dismayed and more than a little irritated by this, the thought occurred to me, The mushroom people are here to teach us but nobody is listening! I felt we were wasting a blessed opportunity. Probably the worst distraction came from my wife, who was experiencing her first psilocybin trip. As frequently happens to people on mushrooms, she was laughing a lot, but instead of just processing this and letting it go, she got up and started walking around, and eventually ended up in conversation with another retreatant. (In general, people should not do this before the medicine has mostly worn off, which typically takes at least four hours.) This proved tremendously distracting to me, and for much of the session I was flitting between irritation and my efforts to absorb into my own experience. I spent most of the session lying down, but sometimes I sat up, which is when I noticed how relaxed I’d become. Sitting with legs crossed, head back and eyes closed, I began entering psychic spaces I’d last visited at Johns Hopkins. At first I saw the geometric patterns of light common in psilocybin trips, but these gave way to spacious depths of delicious quiet and calm. These were seen in the darkness behind my closed eyelids and were similar to the jhanas (“absorptions”) described in Buddhist texts. Practiced meditators can access these states of consciousness through the breath alone; indeed, in the late 80s, I had been able to do so, but hadn’t for many years, which was one of the reasons I’d become interested in psychedelics as a means of breaking through my psychic blockages.

Trip #2 (June 17)

Our second session was held indoors, because of rain. (The alternative was the nearby beach, which would be the site of our third and fourth sessions.) This time the group agreed to try music, one of the playlists developed at Johns Hopkins, which consisted of mostly classical pieces. I consumed 6 grams of dried P. cubensis, around 38 mgs of psilocybin. This would be my strongest dose during the retreat, which I repeated on the fourth session.

Externally, this session was far more settled. I wasn’t bothered by anything anyone else did, though after a while the music started making me anxious. This was rather odd, since I was familiar with a lot of the pieces from my time at Johns Hopkins and it was all perfectly “good” music. Eventually I asked Jonathan to turn it off. Before the session, we had agreed as a group that if any single person was bothered by the music he or she could ask for it to stop. It’s a good thing I did since later when as a group we reviewed the session almost everyone disliked it. (This is one subject Eric feels strongly about: he views music as imposing a certain structure and mood on a psychedelic session and he thinks it does violence to the organic process and effects of the medicine. While my first experience with music at Johns Hopkins was extremely positive and if given the opportunity to trip on my own I would certainly try it again, in principle I must agree with him.) The primary facts of this session were anxiety and physical discomfort. The anxiety hit me early on, in conjunction with the music, but also as something separate, with no obvious cause. Perhaps it was some unconscious concern about the heavy dose, which was 50% more than I’d ever had before; I don’t know. I practiced loving-kindness meditation for a while, and that proved very beneficial, making me emotionally open, vulnerable, and receptive. After the music was turned off, I could settle down and this proved a passing phase. Bodily discomfort, however, persisted and worsened. I experienced nausea and heartburn. I yawned continuously, and felt I would go to sleep. At one point, I curled up fetal on the big couch; my body just wanted to shut down. I told myself that would be a waste of 6 grams of mushrooms and I wouldn’t let it happen. So I lay there uncomfortably, my toes twitching with electrical currents. I got up continuously to pee; my bladder seemed to have gone into overdrive. I sat up, thinking to meditate, but was still uncomfortable, so lay on another couch. Eventually I went to the floor and stretched out crucifix-wise. I became convinced I’d taken too much medicine, that my body couldn’t process so much psilocybin. I figured I’d have to dial it back next time, and started making plans. Where were the quiet spaces? I only touched them flittingly now and then during the session, mostly feeling physically and emotionally constipated, though after I lay on the floor I became more accepting of my situation—resigned, you might say—and my body problems stopped bothering me so much. At one point, late in the evening, I got up to pee and on my way out from the bathroom bumped into my daughter. She was in our bedroom with Ben and Jason’s children. I asked her what was she was doing up, playing and talking with the kids. Why wasn’t she in the main room with the rest of us? “I kept my mouth shut my whole life,” she said, “and now I feel chatty!” I laughed—it was the most wonderful thing I’d heard all day—and gave her a hug.8 My assessment of this most challenging of the four trips is that it represented a clearing out phase. Talking with Eric after the session, he said many years of mushroom use had convinced him that psilocybin is a powerful detoxificant: if there’s something physical or mental you need to purge from your system, the mushrooms will find a way to get it out. This is probably the principle reason people experience “bad trips”: they are purging the dross of their lives through one or more avenues, be it physical, emotional or intellectual. However, like my three previous trips, I did not touch anything personal, in the way of memories or emotions, and excepting the initial anxiety it was mostly a physical as opposed to psychological experience.

This has become a constant fixture in my psilocybin experiences: they are never about me. Contrary to what most other people seem to experience—psychodynamic material from their lives: memories, relationships, etc—my six trips to date have never involved specific content from my life, either past or present. Instead, they have centered around the structure and nature of my conscious experience—the shape and “feel” of internal awareness, or, as in this second session, the relationship of body to mind. This is true even for my first Johns Hopkins session, where I went through extreme bouts of laughter and crying. During that particularly powerful sequence, there was never anything I was “laughing at”—it was, as I put it, the “funniness of funny,” something comical about the nature of things in and of themselves as opposed to anything specific to the moment. My crying had been a release, like urinating or belching; I did not cry because of some personal memory or emotion. Far from being unpleasant (as it would have been if caused by sadness or some other negative affect), it was enormously gratifying and freeing to let go in that fashion. But it must be emphasized that neither the laughter nor crying had anything to do with me as an individual. They had been more like biological reflexes to the medicine.

Trip #3 (June 19)

Our third phase of the retreat happened in the evening on the beach behind the bed and breakfast where we were all staying. Because of my challenging physical experience the previous session I opted for a “middle way” dose—figuring four grams were too few and six too much, I took five (roughly 31-32 mgs of psilocybin). On the beach, I picked out a blanket on the far edge of the group and lay down. However, on account of some inner urging (or perhaps because of wind flinging sand into my face), I decided I should not lie down but sit. So I did. I had no pillow or chair, just a towel bundled under my bottom, and I adopted a typical meditation posture, like I would at home. I decided I would meditate, that is, to note the moment-to-moment arising and passing of my experience. This is Buddhist vipassana, or “insight meditation.” I soon became very absorbed, pressing my awareness against the borders of mental and physical sensations—sounds of the sea, thoughts, sensations in and on the body—trying to encompass more and more of what could be felt and experienced in the now. At one point someone—I thought it was Eric—came up to me and said something. He put a reassuring hand on my knee. I could not move or respond. (I learned later it was Jonathan.) I sat effortlessly for a couple hours then began doing yogic postures, whatever felt right or necessary. Then I went back to sitting and contemplating sensation. My body became filled with energy: my tailbone pulsed, electricity ran up the spine, a bubbling, ticklish sensation emanated from my navel and coursed through my stomach. These sensations percolated into my chest and face, like a slow-moving orgasm consuming my torso and head. I felt tremendously happy, and when I opened my eyes and put on my glasses to see the stars I cried at the beauty of it all. Whenever it felt right I would pause for yoga. I was far more flexible than normal. It seemed channels had opened throughout my physical form and I could move easily into much deeper poses than usual. This offered an insight into yoga, which uses stretching movements and static postures to open and adjust energy channels. I saw that you could come at this work from either way: from the inside out (via meditation or psychedelics) or from the outside in (through body disciplines like yoga or tai-chi). Most important, I felt I had begun to understand my proper relationship to the mushrooms and any other entheogens. They would be my tools to facilitate meditation for the direct seeing into the nature of experience, the kind of seeing that leads to freedom. They would be fuel, catalysts, guides, trailblazers and butt-kickers, all with the purpose of facilitating the work I was already doing, which is spiritual development. In this they were the perfect partners, but I would need to discover how to work with them consistently for the long term. That would be my challenge.

Trip #4 (June 21)

Our final trip happened on the beach. I ingested 6 grams, same as my second trip. I did not hesitate this time, but sat right down on a pillow I’d brought from my room and began meditating. Specifically, I practiced noting per the technique taught by the famous Burmese monk Mahasi Sayadaw. I just noted sensations and thoughts—whatever came up.

At times this narrowed to focus on mindfulness of breathing at the nose tip (anapanasati), for which I would count my breaths. As the mushrooms kicked in my meditation became progressively more powerful, so that the counting (or noting) dropped off and mindfulness embraced the whole body. The preliminary purification and momentum I’d developed over the last three trips, coupled with my confidence and determination to just meditate no-holds-barred, ended up making this the most powerful psychedelic experience I’ve ever had.My spine and head bubbled and rocked. Head channels zinged open, and my arms and chest buzzed with a delicious energy. I became completely absorbed, unaware of time, place, or identity. If I opened my eyes and observed my limbs, I did not know whose they were; the experience of being someone, of owning a body, had receded. Later I learned both Jonathan and Eric had dropped by at points during the night, but I did not notice their coming and going. I did not know where or who I was—I was just AWARENESS, out there on the edge of sensation. I sat in siddhasana for more than three hours, immobile, dwelling in jhanas and various psychic spaces of deep equanimity. When at last the ride came to its conclusion, I did a round of asanas and like the previous time found my flexibility greatly improved. I walked over to where Jonathan and Eric sat at the fire. They looked at me expectantly, asking how things had gone. I said, “I don’t know where the fuck I’ve been the last three hours!” They had a good laugh. “That’s what we like to hear,” Eric said.

Intentions & A Final Word

I had wanted to know how best to use my free time before I retired; I got an answer. I think dedicating myself to learning about and practicing the contemplative path is the highest and best thing I can do, regardless of how much or little “progress” I make. The secondary question this provokes, however, is exactly how to go about this, both in terms of changes to habits, routines, practices, etc. I have no ready answer for this; it will require ongoing thought and research. About my second intention—the removal of inner blockages and obstacles. There is no doubt my meditations are more sensitive and aware than before Jamaica, but maintaining and developing this will require continued hard work; there simply are no magic doorways to permanent improvement or guaranteed progress. In fact, understood properly, this second intention or goal is the flip side of the first, a fact that was not originally apparent to me. How could it not be? Following my “true path” goes hand in hand with breaking through obstructions encountered on that path. Similarly, overcoming those obstacles more clearly reveals the nature and direction of my path.

Now I understand this, it is even more urgent I find ways to improve myself “spiritually,” both in terms of contemplative practice but also by simply becoming a wiser, better human being. If anything can be called The Ultimate Challenge, it is this. One thing cannot be doubted: this “trip” has served our family well. Our daughter is more emotionally available and mature and more communicative than ever before. Both my wife and I feel we are closer to her than previously. Young-ok as well has benefited, learning more about her family’s shamanic past, and more in touch with her purpose going forward. Like me, though, she will be challenged to maintain and develop the insights and openings gained on this journey. I think I can sum up this experience’s final lesson in a simple phrase: The family that trips together stays together.

Watch Craig’s Interview with Jonathan Thompson of MycoMeditations and Psychedelic Parenting Comparing the MycoMeditations Experience to the Johns Hopkins Studies



2 The investment banker turned amateur mycologist Gordon Wasson was the first to propose this. However, the identity of soma continues to be argued. An article by Wasson can be found here.

3 See, e.g., Research into the use of psychotopics for treating PTSD, addiction and depression is exploding, as a simple Google search will prove.

4 See, e.g.,

5 See, e.g., 6 Calculations done on The Shroomery suggest that “using the data for rats and accepting a median of 1% potency [of psilocybin per dried mushroom weight], …it would require the consumption of 1680g of mushrooms to reach the

6 LD50 for a 60kg rat. This amount of mushrooms is enough to provide a “normal” mushroom trip to roughly 650 people.” LD50 is the lethal dose for 50% of the population.

7 See

8 As things turned out, BG had described her first session as the “worst experience of my life” and she’d hesitated to even engage again with the mushrooms. She did though, taking a slightly lower dose for the second session, and experienced a major emotional opening.