Magic mushrooms are not something I take lightly. Growing up, I was in all sense of the word a “nerd”. I played by the rules, listened to my teachers and other figures of authority. I did not drink, smoke, do drugs, or engage in other questionable behavior. In fact, I dislike the idea of even taking prescribed medications.
So, when the prospect of experiencing magic mushrooms came up, I was very much against the idea. How could I, a person who has not even tried “pot” consider psychedelics. How could I, someone who does not even like taking medications prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacy be open to a substance that does not come directly from either of those sources.
More importantly, I openly wondered why, if mushrooms have all these beneficial properties; especially for those with varying and chronic medical conditions, are they not being prescribed by doctors and clinics all over the world? If they are so safe, then why are they not being sold and being made accessible to the masses?
The answer to many of these questions requires not only an understanding of the history of psychedelics but also the politics involved. There are many resources that one can access online and even through this website for further insight into these questions, so I am not going to waste time discussing the political and legal developments involving magic mushrooms. Long story short, their lack of availability is not because they are inherently dangerous.
Instead, I’d like to share the fear, uncertainty, curiosity and my personal experience with psilocybin. When I first asked someone what it was like to be “on mushrooms”, their response made me feel like I was being recruited into a cult. “You have to try it” to “truly understand”. “Words can’t explain it”. “You just have to experience it for yourself”. These statements raised my suspicions to the 10th degree and the lack of concrete responses was troublesome. In fact, these statements weren’t even the scariest. On the contrary, statements such as “this will change you”, or “you won’t be the same person”, were more concerning. What does that even mean? What if I don’t want to be a different person?
Needless to say, these description and lack of any prior experience only added to an unhealthy level of anxiety. I soon began to realize that the only way to really explain and comprehend the reactions of others was for me to indeed try it myself. I must say, the experience was unlike any prior experience and the description by others was accurate, with some caveats.
First, are you a different person? Our experiences play a significant role in who we are. My guide explained it the best. Imagine having the experience of climbing Mt. Everest. Would you be a different person the day after your climb than the day before? Your perspective and the way you look at things might be different after an experience like that. I think you would say yes. However, will you still be you? Yes again. Mushrooms work the same way. You don’t change into a different person just by taking mushrooms. However, you do evolve your prospective and you can look at things differently afterwards.
This does not mean you are a different person, but like any experience, your perspective evolves from the experience. The experience is something you take and keep with you. You are still the same person, but you can’t deny the experience and you can’t deny its impact on you. It is not like a dream. Mushrooms do have an impact on your state of mind even after the psychedelic effects have passed, which is in fact what many people are seeking when they take mushrooms. This is one reason having a guide is so essential. An experience, pleasant or not stays with you regardless and has an impact. You don’t forget it. It is therefore important to have those who can guide you not only through it while it is happening but can relate and discuss it with you afterwards.
My “trip” began with the consumption of a predetermined amount of mushrooms mixed with honey. However, prior to taking the mushrooms, I was advised by Jessica to take anti-nausea medication. Since psilocybin effects serotonin receptors, including the receptors in your gut, many people have nausea when taking psilocybin and it is recommended that people either fast and/or take anti-nausea meds. I did not experience any nausea thanks to taking this pre-emptive measure.
After a few minutes I felt sleepy and kept yawning. I was informed that this reaction is common and that I would not all asleep, even though I doubted that given how sleepy I was feeling. Soon most things in my visual range started to have more definitive characters and clarity. In some ways it feels like having a way to magnify minute details you never notice before. Variations in the wood frame of a painting. Sunlight passing through the dust in the air causing it to sparkle. On most days, this attention to detail would just be ignored. Yet in these moments it seemed like every object had a defined characteristic.
The amazing thing about this feeling was also a sense of clarity in observing your surroundings. It did not feel like I was inebriated or “drugged”. Things just looked clear, almost clean in their simplicity and design. This clarity moment was soon replaced by an initial surge of anxiety and what could be described as uneasiness. Jessica quickly noticed the changes in my facial expressions and body language that I was not comfortable. She asked me to describe the sensation and the only word I could come up with at the time was “dread”. Once I said that word she seemed to immediately know the type of sensation I was going through and took steps to divert my attention. Rather than allowing me to dwell on the uneasiness or to hyper focus on the “dread”, she walked me through a series of steps to get me out of that moment. These directional “cues” were an important tether for me to move from one sensation to the next instead.
Going into the experience with some anxiety is normal, but can be challenging. Having a guide to re-direct or re-focus your attention is vital in getting you past moments of uneasiness. In my case this was even more important since I had no concept time or any concept of past or future while under the effects. Only the sense of the “present” existed for me in those crucial moments. Try to imagine being in a moment where you can’t conceive past or future, but only the present. Now imagine a present that is scary or unpleasant and not knowing if it will pass, because you have no concept of time. Having a guide to fish you out and literally move you past a challenging moment is essential. The guides at Eleusinia use specific cues and VR sets that can get you to move past a moment. More importantly, they teach you cues to be able to do this yourself without outside input which is also an important component of the retreat.
My intention is not to scare you from the challenging moments, I still find them to be vital components of the overall experience. However, what I wanted to avoid and was able to avoid was the feeling of getting stuck in a challenging moment. I want to explore the more challenging parts of a psychedelic experience in the future, but it would have been terrifying the first time.
I like to describe this the same way as the climbing example before. Mountain climbing can be challenging. There are parts which can be stressful, frightening, and uncomfortable as you make your way through the climb. However, the experience is also rewarding and cause for joy when you reach the top. This however does not mean that you discount the necessities of the sherpas that help you along your way or who prevent you from getting stuck in a circle where you can’t move forward. They know the routes, the pitfalls, and more importantly they can provide a road map on what to look for and what to avoid. The path you take is still your own and only you can complete the journey. Those things don’t change. The psychedelic journey is similar. It has its highs and lows, and both have rewarding characteristics. Knowing someone is there watching you and knows to a degree what you are experiencing is extremely comforting. It adds a blanket of security so that you can truly immerse yourself into the experience, knowing others are always watching and making sure you are safe and secure.