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Entheogens

An entheogen is a chemical substance, typically of plant origin, that is ingested to produce a nonordinary state of consciousness for religious or spiritual purposes.


I first became aware of entheogens when I read about the experiences of some spiritual teachers, primarily Buddhists, who said that the thing that first opened their consciousness to a higher reality was an experience with a hallucinogen, such as mushrooms or LSD. After many years of learning about higher states of consciousness and trying different practices, I decided to see if an experience with an entheogen could help me move forward.


Since then I have tried three different entheogenic substances – mushrooms, ayahuasca, and ketamine.


Part 1 – Mushrooms


The first time I tried mushrooms it was on a retreat at a rented cabin with a women’s spirituality group I belong to. It was in 2018. Some of us had done mushrooms before, and some of us hadn’t.


I took a partial dose, and wasn’t noticing an effect, so I took more – which is retrospect probably ended up being too much for a first time. The first thing I remember thinking after the effects started was that anything could take you into God or Ultimate Truth – a pencil, a table, and candle flame, anything – if only you could see deeply enough into it.


The most powerful thing I experienced during this first journey was grief over my father’s death. He died in 2010, and I don’t think I ever really grieved his loss. Feelings of loneliness came up during this first mushroom experience, and at one point I got up and went outside. I saw on a bench, seeing and smelling the pine trees all around me, and I began to feel how much I missed dad. As the feelings of loneliness grew I eventually ended up back inside the cabin, sobbing over and over, “I want my dad.” The mushrooms stripped away all of my ability to stay in control and to be strong for myself and others, and grief is what came to the surface.


I experienced several visual hallucinations, mixed with feelings of loneliness. At one point I was aware of wanting someone to talk to, but everyone was in their own mental world having their own experience. I looked over into the kitchen and saw a friend getting a banana. I thought, “I can talk to her.” But as soon as I thought it, in a visual hallucination she froze. She became like a statue, not moving, so I couldn’t talk to her. Another time, I opened my eyes and looked around and everyone else around me appeared dead, except for me, so I really was all alone. That may sound terrifying, but it wasn’t, because I knew at the time that it was a just hallucination.


Coming down out of the effects of the mushrooms was the hardest part of the journey. I was afraid, and needed someone to hold my hand. Luckily some of my good friends took turns holding my hand till I was back to being myself. I kept asking them not to let go of me, and they didn’t. It seem to take forever to come fully out of the effects.


Later that night, as we sat around discussing the experience, I felt wonderful – light and free and very happy.


I went into this first experience wanting spiritual insight and experience into higher states of consciousness. Except for the initial thought about a pencil or table or candle flame, what I experienced was an emotional release. So I thought that must have been what I needed at the time – to give up control and allow painful emotions to surface and be released – before I could access higher states of consciousness.


I decided to try mushrooms again, and see what would come up the next time. Would there be more emotional release, or would I experience a higher state of consciousness? A few weeks later a few of us from the same group that went to the cabin got together at a group member’s house to try them together.


This second time I decided to take a smaller dose, since the coming down period had been so difficult the first time. This was an easier experience. I was consciously aware of fear as the mushrooms started to take effect – fear of losing control and not knowing what would happen. But I was table to think reassuring thoughts to myself about how I would be alright, and that worked. I didn’t have any deep insights this time. (At least, if I did, they weren’t impressionable enough that I remember them now some 3+ years later.) It was a pleasant experience, and coming out of it wasn’t difficult. I think mostly I proved to myself that I could handle a smaller dose fine.


My third experience was the best. It was in October of 2018. I decided to have a facilitated experience this time – with a specific setting, a guide, and music. Those things seemed to make all the difference. Here is what I wrote about the experience in the days right after I had it.


11-18-2018

5:50 pm


It starts with fear. Fear of losing control. Fear of the unknown. Why did I think this was a good idea? It's the same feeling as when the Ayahuasca first started to take effect. This was not a good idea. Why did I think this was a good idea? So much fear. I cry uncle. If you have to feel this much fear to undergo ego death and resurrection, never mind. I'm happy to stick to the soul level. It's not nondual awareness, not complete ego death – a soul is still a self of sorts. But it's good enough for me if it will keep the fear at bay. I hold out my hand wishing someone would hold it so I won't be afraid anymore.1


Then Dad is here. I know he's here. I can feel him. I put my hand on my cheek and it's his hand, and know that he will always be here. And Jesus is here, too. I hold on tight to them, each one of them holding one of my hands. Okay, I'll go into this unknown scariness, as long as they promise to go with me so I won't be alone. At some point I realize that is it – my deepest fear – the fear of being all alone.


But then I remember the wheel of existence, and I remember I'm only alone out at the edge of the wheel, where the spokes are separate and each reaches out in its own direction. So I turn around and look back to the center of the wheel where all the spokes come together and we all share the same one center – where no one is alone – and that is when the journey shifts.


I listen to the music, and it is beautiful. It feels like the music makes a huge difference between this time and the first time. It takes me places, gives me experiences. First it shows me that there is nothing to be afraid of – nothing at all. I feel two things at the same time: there is nothing to fear, and fear is welcome here.


More music, and I feel myself being made love to by the music, and then giving birth. What am I giving birth to? I don't know – it is a mystery. I am giving birth to a mystery. The music changes and the child I am giving birth to becomes a song. I am giving birth to the music of the Universe. It is so beautiful, and it is flowing from me. Every song comes from me, and every song is a new life experience coming into the world. Every being comes from me. I am giving birth to everything and everyone in existence.


Everything I give birth to exists for a time, and when it's time is over, I wrap my arms around it and draw it back into my heart. It comes back into me. That's all so-called death is. It's just me, loving each thing back into my heart when it's time to. Nothing to fear. Nothing in the slightest. It's all love. And it's all happening within my heart.


At some point I realize I am perfectly content to be wherever I am in the process of spiritual awakening – still asleep, partly awake – whatever – it's all perfect just the way it is, playing itself out however it will, and I'm just happy to be.


I come back to seeing myself holding Dad by one hand and Jesus by the other, and the lens zooms out, and realize that I am Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the Mother of everything. I feel the expansiveness of my own heart, in which Teresa and Jesus and Dad live. And I see that I am also the Christ Child. I am the Christ Child that Mary gave birth to. My mantra from the Ayahuasca ceremony keeps appearing, repeating itself in my heart – Christ-love – in rhythm with my breathing. Then I see that fear is also the Christ Child, as loved and Divine and precious as Jesus and Dad and me. Every being in existence is the Christ Child. And I am the Mother in whose heart every Christ Child is born.


I see the suffering in the world. And I see that don't control what I give birth to – any more than a mother controls the lives or choices of the children she gives birth to. The creation I birth moves out in a million different directions and each takes their own course. They flow out into the world and live their lives. I birthed their lives, but I don't have control over them. I only love them. Sometimes pain and fear come, and beings I gave birth to create suffering. Sometimes they hurt each other. When I see the suffering become intense, I feel my love intensify. I meet intense suffering with intense love. And the truth is that everyone ultimately is safe, because I am always holding everything – including all of the pain and suffering – within me. And they will all come back into my hear when it is time. Every one.2


The music changes, and I see with delight that Jesus is playing hide and seek in the notes of the song! He's playing hide and seek in everything! That's what all of existence is – God playing hide and seek. It's all a beautiful, thrilling game of hide and seek. My hands clap in delight each time the bubble of perception pops and the true identity of yet another creature as God is revealed. It's such delightful play!


I see the little girl Teresa again, holding onto Jesus with one hand and Dad with the other. Only now she's in a daring, fun adventure. I see her wearing a little Super Girl cape. Then the music shifts. It's scary music. I feel her heart rate go up. I feel her fear but also her bravery and her sense of adventure. She'll do it! She'll fly into the adventure and the fear, holding on to Dad and Jesus. But then the lens zooms out again and I see that her whole adventure is taking place inside of my heart. She's utterly completely safe inside of my heart – she always has been and always will be.


The music changes, and keeps changing, and each new piece of music is a new song I am giving birth to, a new life experience that a new someone is having. There is scary music, triumphant music, joyful music, tragic music, peaceful music, sad music, and every flavor in between. I revel in each new song as it comes, and feel how each is a beautiful, love-filled part of the wondrous music of the Universe that I give birth to.


This music flows from me in continually – new people and experiences being born into the world and other people and experiences being pulled back into my heart as they end their experience in the physical plane. It's all a continual flow, going out and returning, a cosmic circle of love and life.


I see Teresa's earlier thought – that she wanted to experience ego death and resurrection, like Jesus. What she didn't know – couldn't have imagined, but sees so clearly now – is that all of this dying and resurrecting happens within me. It all comes from me. She is something much larger than the experience of death and resurrection. She is really me – the heart in which it all happens. Death and resurrection is just another experience she births into being, loves while it exists, and then loves back into her infinite heart when it is over. This whole experience has become permeated with the love and bliss of being the one Mother of everything.


Then I see (of all people!) Donald Trump. And I see the truth of him. I see that inside of him is fear – constant, screaming fear – a cyclone of fear, a hysterical cyclone that holds him so tightly in its grip that he cannot escape. I start to cry for him, for the hell of fear he is bound by. Can you imagine the torture of having to live every day inside of such a fearful mind? This poor, poor man. The fear is destroying him, and he is in turn destroying everything around him. He needs help.


I don't know if anything can stop the damage he is doing as his fear acts itself out and drives his every waking moment. But I know with complete clarity what will NOT help the world. Hating him. We have to stop hating him. We HAVE TO. We are feeding the fear monsters who control his every waking breath. Every bit of hate we direct his way strengthens their chains and makes him more of their prisoner. I don't know if love can save him, or if he will only be saved when I put my arms around him and draw him back into my heart. But if he can be saved before that moment, it is only love – ONLY LOVE – that has any chance at all of saving him. The hatred for him has to stop. Immediately. I see that clearly. Of course we must resist his destructive actions. But we must resist them with LOVE toward him personally. This is the only possible cure.


I touch my hand, and know that the touch of my hand can alleviate fear. My Mother's love has the ability to do that with a touch of my hand. I see Phillip, and I know just what to say to him. I send it in a message when I get home: "If you are scared to come home, you don't need to be. I love you. And you are inside of God's heart right now." Then I see each one of them – all of my family members, including the hurtful things we have done – and there is only love. Love for everyone. Everyone is inside of this amazing, loving heart that is who I am.


A song comes on. It sounds like Polynesian men. The are singing. I love this song! (I love every song!) But this is the song playing now and it is delightful. I look it up after I get home. It's called King of Kings. It's a prayer. Here are the words:


Oh Kings of Kings

Kings of Kings

We kneel before you Father, appealing

Asking for peace in the rest of the country

Lords of Lords we kneel

We kneel before you Father, appealing

Asking for peace in the rest of our country


Our Father, our Father

We are asking for peace in the world

Our Father, our Father

We are asking for peace in the world

Our Father, our Father

We are asking for peace in the world

Our Father, our Father

We are asking for peace in the world


Reveal yourself, reveal yourself Almighty

Reveal yourself, reveal yourself Almighty

To be from Heaven


Because we are directing to you

To you Almighty

We are directing to you forever

Almighty

The sun rise and set, rise and set

The sun rise and set forever Almighty


Your promise our Father

Said fear thou not, for I am with thee

Fear not this minute

For I am like a hut

I will surround thee

Yes, I will help thee with my ration of righteousness


Reveal yourself, reveal yourself Almighty

Reveal yourself, reveal yourself Almighty


The sun rise and set forever Almighty

The sun rise and set forever Almighty


Reveal yourself Almighty

Reveal yourself Almighty


Because we are directing to you forever

Almighty

Reveal yourself Almighty

Because we are directing to you forever

Almighty

Reveal yourself


When they sing, over and over, "Reveal yourself, reveal yourself Almighty," I just start to laugh. Because they're unknowingly playing the game of hide and seek! The voices who are singing, "reveal yourself Almighty" are themselves the Almighty! When the song ends I see the men who are singing fall down and dissolve into laughter when the bubble of perception pops and they realize they themselves are the Almighty that they are seeking. The Almighty has been playing a grand game of hide and seek with them, as them! There is so much delight at the game and I can't stop laughing!


More songs come and I want to listen to them all, experience them all, be them all. Each new song brings a new revelation about reality and the love that is at the core of everything and everyone. It's all so amazing. So beautiful. So much love. So much joy. So much bliss. And when it seems it can't get any better, "Here Comes the Sun" begins to play.


Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

And I say it's all right


Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter

Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here


Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

And I say it's all right


Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces

Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here


Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

And I say it's all right


Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes


Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting

Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear


Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

And I say it's all right

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

It's all right, it's all right


And then another song starts. There is no end to these songs. No end to my music of life.


11-18-2018

10:00 pm


I see in retrospect that my journey today was all about fear and love. I've heard it said that these are the only two emotions at the deepest level of our being. I don't know if that's true. I don't know if all hatred grows from fear. It seems some hatred grows from deep pain that has gone hard, whether fear was involved or not. But either way – fear or hatred – love is the only response that can truly cure the ills of fear and hatred.


A scripture comes to mind. "Perfect love casteth out fear." 1 John 4:18. This is what I experienced today. There is fear in being a separate spoke on the wheel, but the perfect love that is the center and true being of each one of us casts out that fear. And one last image comes to me. It's about the wheel, out at the edge where the rim joins each of the spokes into a wheel. Each spoke is holding me – hands with Dad and Jesus – with the spokes next to it on each side. The rim is each spoke holding hands with the spokes/people on either side of it. That's how it's meant to be. We're meant to hold each other's hands while we're here in this world. Part of the work of God is to work to make sure each person has someone to hold hands with in joy and sorrow, while we are here in this plane of existence.


In the last few days I’ve been reading some of the writings of Meister Eckhart, the German Christian mystic. I came across this quote that reminded me of this third mushroom experience:


There is one essence which gives all things life and being, for Christ is born out of the heart of God eternally and shall bring back into it again all things which issued forth therefrom.3



Part 2 – Ayahuasca


The second entheogen I tried was ayahuasca. I tried it in October of 2018, between the second and third times that I tried mushrooms.


The name “ayahuasca” is from the Quechua language, in which aya means soul or ancestors, and wasca (huasca) means vine. Most people translate this as “vine of the soul.” It is a combination of two different plants that are brewed into a tea. One plan contains DMT, and the other contains MAO inhibitors called beta-carbolines that stop the DMT from breaking down, which allows the psychedelic effects of the tea to happen.


People in the Amazon region (Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Brazil) have used ayahuasca as a healing medicine and a part of religious ceremonies and tribal rituals for thousands of years. It induces an “introspective dream-like experience” that can include visions and memories.


I have a friend who is trained in facilitating ayahuasca journeys and is part of a group that periodically offers ayahuasca ceremonies, so that is the context in which I tried it. This is what I wrote immediately after the experience.


30 October 2018


I didn’t sign up for this ceremony thinking it would be about Christ for me. That’s not what was in my mind when I walked in the door. But as I sit on my mat and wait for things to start, two scriptures keep coming to me. The first one is: Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. I think how nice it would be to take this struggle that my life has become and lay it at the feet of Christ, and be healed. That forms as an intention for the journey with ayahuasca, along with the second scripture that keeps coming to me: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. I think that I am willing to die to Teresa if I could be reborn as Christ living in Teresa. Like the time when Roshi asked to speak to the voice of great death, and I was in such pain I willingly surrendered, and found bliss on the other side, for awhile.


When the facilitator sends around a paper for us to write our intentions on, I write “connection, meaning, love”. The three things my life feels bereft of right now.


When it is my turn to receive the tea, I asked the facilitator if a large dose would be safe because I desperately need something powerful to happen in my life. It feels like I am hanging onto my life by my fingernails, and if something doesn’t change soon it’s all going to fall completely apart – I’m not sure how. He suggests medium instead of large, so that’s what I take Right about the time he asks if anyone wants more, I start to feel strange sensations on my face, kind of like something was pressing on different parts of my face. There was pressure and tingling. I close my eyes and it is dark. Dark angular shapes with the littlest hint of dim neon lights, all moving around. It is not pleasant. I wonder who ever thought this was a good idea, taking ayahuasca. I see if I can make it stop by opening my eyes. The room and people are around me, but now there are some kind of gray lines in everything, so opening my eyes to get out of the black shapes isn’t much better. And I can’t keep them open that long anyway. So I just have to surrender and let it be. I tell myself that eventually the effects will wear off and it will end.


All around me I hear people getting sick. I’m glad I’m not feeling sick. I lay back down. The facilitator starts to whistle. It sounds like a bird. I think about how there is a bird at my funeral, because what I want to have happen is to die and be reborn, like Jesus.


There is sound coming from me. Moaning or humming, I can’t tell. The facilitator wants me to go to the quiet room, but I can’t stand up, so two people help me. I lay on a soft mat. My friend comes to hold my head and help me. She asks someone to hold me feet. She says all is well and strokes my hair. It feels good. I’m not alone. Someone is helping me. I can’t remember the last time someone helped me, or touched me in a caring way like my friend and the person holding my feet are. I am grateful for their help.


I hear the facilitator’s music. Other people are singing. I want to sing, but they are singing in Spanish and I don’t know the words, so I try to hum along. I hear my friend laugh. When it’s quiet I stop for a minute, but then the humming starts again by itself. I’m trying to be part of it, part of the group. Trying to sing.


At some point I realize I am so, so not in charge. I came in with my little intentions – connection, meaning, and love, and my little mantra. But my intentions are toast compared to the power of this thing. I am so, so not in charge. At some point I realize all I can do is say yes to whatever is happening, while I wait for daylight to come and it to be over. So that becomes my mantra – yes, yes.


I realize how tired I am, how utterly exhausted. I am so, so tired. Soul and body tired. In my mind I keep saying, “I’m so tired.” I want to go to sleep, but sleep will not come. So I just lay there going in and out and saying yes when I remember to.


As some point I see an image of my own face, grotesque, emaciated, ugly. It’s like Gollum in Lord of the Rings, but the face is my face. I think it’s what I look like inside. I begin to realize there is a hateful voice in me saying mean, mean things to me. It’s so hurtful. I tell it to shut the fuck up. I keep telling it to shut the fuck up. It tells me I don’t belong anywhere. It tells me no one will ever, ever love me or want me in their life again. It tells me I am alone in the universe and it is all my fault because I am an ugly nothing and there is nothing there for anyone to love. It really, really hurts. I keep telling it to shut the fuck up, but it doesn’t.


Then a thought of dad comes into my mind. Dad loves me, I know he does. It feels like he still exists. I can see his old hands, they touch my face. He thinks I am worth loving. I put my own hand on my face. I’m doing it for him. I’m using my hand because he isn’t here anymore, but I know it’s from him. I understand that when the hurtful voice torments me, I can put my hand on my face and remember he loves me. He loved me before he died and he will always love me.


At some point I start to think of good things about me to counter that mean voice. I see myself at age 3, so sweet and happy, at 5 or 6 with my new pajamas. I see myself trying hard till I learned to ride a bike in the driveway. I see myself loving learning about genetics in high school biology. I see myself learning integral theory with a passion, developing a curriculum, teaching classes, and leading an integral Christian think tank. I see there are good things in there, not just the bad that the mean voice keeps telling me.


Then at some point in the dark I feel the word “Christ” in the center of my chest. It’s like an actual physical feeling in my heart. I can feel the physical weight of it. Everything is still dark, but it is in there, like a round ball where my heart is. And I can feel my heart beating. It didn’t feel like a person. More like a word than a person, but not exactly a word either. I want Christ to be a person, a subtle spirit person, because I want to feel loved, like I used to feel loved by Jesus. I ask Dad to help me find Christ. I ask dad to bring him to me so I can have him back. I have the feeling that I can meditate on this Christ in my heart and it can grow. It doesn’t have to be here under the influence of this medicine that is so hard. It can be after. Christ can be my meditation. I see a small tea light in the room. It reminds me of the light of Christ. I can see it with my eyes, but I can’t feel it in my heart. In my heart there is this pressure, this physical feeling, and the word Christ, but no light, no feeling, no healing, not tonight.


At different points in the night I saw how silly thoughts are. It wasn’t when I was being attacked by the mean thoughts, but I could see how silly thoughts in general are. At some later point I have the intuition that underneath all of the thoughts, the silly ones and the really mean ones, there is love, like the pure love that is Christ. If I can somehow get beneath the thoughts. It’s possible. It could happen. Other times when I see the image of my grotesque face it feels like I am dying, like my soul is dying.


In retrospect, I see the mean voice started when I walked into the room at 5:30. I looked around and it told me right away that these people have something I don’t have, they belong to a group I am not a part of and will never be a part of. It’s always the same – the definition of “good” changes depending on what group I’m in, but the mean message is always the same. I will never be “good” enough, never be enough of whatever is needed, to ever truly belong anywhere. What a horribly mean thing to say to a person.


Eventually I throw up – 2 times, 3 times – I don’t remember. But by then it doesn’t really matter. It’s just something that happens while I keep saying yes to the experience in the moment, and waiting for this to be over. The whole thing felt permeated with darkness. There was never any light. I want morning to come.


Then I hear laughter and talking and eating. Everyone else sounds okay and back to themselves. They are friends. But I am way behind them. I couldn’t sit up and eat if my life depended on it. They all do it together and come back to themselves together, and now it sounds like a fun party. I try to chuckle when they all laugh, so I will be laughing, too. They can’t hear me of course, and the mean voice says I will never belong. She says it so quietly that I don’t even hear the words. It’s just a truth I know in the moment. I try to chuckle like I tried to hum along while they all sang together, but that was the closest I could get.


The best thing is that the people taking care of me were so nice to me. They really helped me, and I was very grateful for that. They seemed genuinely kind, even though my friend what the only one who knew who I was.


Eventually I start to recover. I eat a banana. I sit in a chair, but only for a minute and then I have to lie back down. After awhile I can get myself to the bathroom by myself. I feel spent. Wiped out. I don’t want to do this again.


Finally the sun comes up. I walked out into the room to begin to gather my things. There is a woman there. We talk for a minute. She says my friend has a monthly dinner for people in the group to talk and process things. I tell her I will ask my friend about it, but immediately in my head the mean voice says she wouldn’t want me there, because I’m not one of them.


I go over to the ledge by the window where my things are and I see a ladybug. I gently try to get it off my things. It flips over and I set it back upright. I gather up my things and leave.


Driving home, my head hurts. The woman I talked to in the kitchen said it can feel like a hangover afterward, and that’s just what it feels like. I remember the first time I ever had a hangover. I drank 2-1/2 beers and was sicker than a dog for three days. I told the person I was with at the time that it felt like being dead without also having the luxury of being unconscious. I said I can’t believe they knew what this feels like, and chose to do it to themselves on purpose by getting drunk. I feel somewhat that same way about the ayahuasca right now.


It occurs to me driving home that if this is like being drunk, and I have been fasting and eating just a banana and two bites of carrot and potato for the last 24 hours, maybe some Pedialyte would make my headache go away and help with the exhaustion. So on the way home I stop at the Walmart on Foothill Drive to get some. I pay at the self-serve register and when I reach down to pick up my receipt there is another ladybug, right on my receipt. I help it get off.


Later I look up what the symbolism of a ladybug means. The first site I go to says it’s called a ladybug after Our Lady, the Virgin Mary. The second one says it means good luck. I would soon experience being Mother Mary, the Mother of the whole Universe, in my third mushroom journey.


In the days after the ceremony I realize two things. Lately I am enamored of stories on Facebook about rescued animals. An animal is found abandoned, or abused, neglected, injured, or starved. But someone finds it and rescues it. With love and care it recovers and after awhile it is happily living with a forever family, or returned to the wild. So many times I’ve wished I could quit my job and do that – rescue lost and abandoned animals. Before the ceremony the thought had begun to occur to me that I am so drawn to these stories not because I want to be the rescuer, but because I identify with the animals. Those poor creatures on a chain, slowly dying, needing rescue and love. I remember the grotesque, ugly image of my own face I saw during the night, and I think that is the injured, dying animal me.


I hope there is some way I can get better. The truth is, it feels like the mean voices have been there so long that they are permanent, and what they are saying are facts. Immutable facts. I will never truly belong anywhere. I have tried and tried, and it has never worked. I always end up on the outside looking in. In my mind I don’t want to believe that. But it’s how it feels inside of me. I don’t know how to exorcize the mean voice. I think I need a miraculous healing, help beyond what I can do myself anymore.


The day after this experience I felt that I was glad I had done it, but would never do it again. In the days that followed, I met a few times with the friend who helped facilitate the ceremony and she helped me work through what came up, most especially the voice of that hateful inner critic that said such awful things to me. I found the surfacing of that voice to be overwhelming when I really heard everything it was saying and felt powerless to stop it, and all I could do was cry.


As I was able to work through this and eventually find some freedom from the mean voice, I reached the point where I thought I would do ayahuasca again if it felt like the right thing to do, but at a much smaller dose. Eventually, after I’d met with my friend a few times to process things, I felt so happy and light and free that I felt like I would do it again, and even at the same does, it if would lead to this much freedom and lightness again.


In the years since then I have learned to better recognize the voice of the inner critic, and to see through it and dismiss it when it speaks, instead of just automatically feeling bad about myself without even realizing it has spoken. I feel like I did this to a large degree many years ago. Back then I learned, when I was feeling bad, to trace back the thoughts that led to the feeling and realize that just because a conditioned thought occurred, it didn’t mean it was true. But ayahuasca showed me more subtle, yet pervasive ways, that this voice was still at work. I have found that to be very helpful, and again, what I needed at the time to grow and move forward mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.



Part 3 – Ketamine


The third entheogen I have tried is ketamine. I was first given ketamine in December of 2018. I and some other family members were on the way to take my mother back to her care center after our family Christmas party. We stopped to get gas, and in the process of putting gas in my car I tripped over the pump hose and landed hard on my hip. I dislocated my hip and broke my pelvis. They gave me ketamine in the emergency room so that they could put my hip back into joint.


At our Christmas party I had decorated gingerbread with the children, something I do each year. While in the ketamine I experienced being in the midst of gingerbread houses of all shapes, sizes, and colors, and they were all moving and twisting and morphing. It was very cool.


Ketamine has become a treatment used by doctors and therapists to treat depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I have a family member and a friend who have both used it in this way in a series of sessions, and both have had very positive experiences. The isolation from the covid shutdown left me feeling pretty isolated and depressed, so after researching it I decided to give it a try. I had two goals. First, I wanted the potential healing effects on my brain (re-growing dendrites, creating new serotonin receptors, etc.) to alleviate depression and help me be able to feel like myself and feel things deeply again. And second, I wanted to see what expanded states of consciousness I might experience with it.


I went to a treatment center that specializes in ketamine. I had two treatments in December of 2021. The first experience was interesting, and different than mushrooms or ayahuasca. There wasn’t much fear as it took effect. It was more like relaxing before you go to sleep, but I never went completely to sleep. It didn’t feel like I was ever completely unconscious (not aware), but time was distorted. When the music at the end of my playlist stopped, I knew an hour had passed, but if I’d had to estimate it I’d have said it was more like 10 minutes.


I experienced several effects while in it. First, I lost my understanding of what was real. I remember thinking about my friend out in the waiting room who would drive me home, and wondering if she would be real when this was over. At another point I thought about the characters in Downton Abbey (I finished re-watching the series the day before my treatment), and they felt as real as my friend out in the waiting room. I wasn’t sure what would be left as real when the effects wore off. I wasn’t sure if anything was really real. Except I thought of my dogs at home, and somehow I knew they were real.


While deep in it, I was aware of being conscious, but not being able to “see” anything, even in my mind's eye. When that happened – when I looked but couldn’t “see” anything – sometimes I turned my attention to my breathing. I could always choose to breathe deeply and feel it, and it was a deeply restful and relaxing feeling, just breathing.


At times I wanted to see something – a vision, a guide, my parents, anything – but there was nothing, only the awareness that I was. As I was coming out of it, I remember thinking, “This is lonely. I want objects and sunshine.” I wanted “objects” in the sense of the experience of subject and object – I wanted things to exist besides just the awareness that I alone was. It felt like I understood why God would create the entire manifest realm from Itself, so that people and things would exist and It wouldn’t be lonely.


This would all be fine had the experience ended here. But I found that once I had come out of it enough to sit up, I had a horrible headache. Moving my head in any direction hurt and made me dizzy. I waited in the injection room for awhile but it didn’t go away. When I got home I took some ibuprofen, and that made me nauseous but didn’t help the headache. My treatment was at 1 pm, and the headache didn’t really abate until between 8:30 and 9:00 pm. I then had a sleepless night, and that cause its own headache the next day.


During the experience I remembered a thought I had during my ayahuasca journey, that I didn’t need substances to grow in higher states of consciousness, and that practice, not entheogens, would be my spiritual path. So that, combined with the horrible headache, made me not want to try ketamine again.


But then I remembered that exploring expanded states of consciousness was only one of the reasons I’d decided to try it. I also wanted relief from depression. I still wanted that. I wondered if the headache was because I’d had 75 mgs and it was given by IV rather than by intramuscular injection. I decided that I would try one more treatment, but this time I would try an intramuscular injection, and at a smaller dosage of 60 mgs. If I had the same headache afterward, I wouldn’t do any more treatments. If I didn’t have the headache again, I might try some more intramuscular injections, maybe with slightly increasing doses each time.


In retrospect, I think my depression was already lifting before even the first ketamine treatment. I wrote my first blog post before my first ketamine treatment, and the fifth one, one on Trust, Surrender, and Equanimity, was written between the first and second treatments. (The appointment I wrote about being on the way to in that post was my second ketamine treatment.)


In the second treatment the first thing I experienced as it began to take effect was a feeling of love. I kept saying (in my mind), “I love you, I love you.” It wasn’t directed at anyone or anything in particular, but rather toward everyone and everything.


The most powerful thing I experienced was the feeling of being a baby – not necessarily a human baby, but more an infant in consciousness – like awareness but with no personal history whatsoever. I kept thinking, in amazement and joy, “I’m brand new! I’m brand new!” and “Anything is possible – anything!” It was a wonderful and powerful feeling.


But it wasn’t what I could call a clear and clean experience. It was mixed with other thoughts that felt wandering and random. “Who will take care of the baby? Who will love the baby? Who do I love?”, and other thoughts that I don’t remember now. It seemed like a mix of expanded consciousness and egoic thoughts. After awhile I didn’t like it, and I again remembered the thought from ayahuasca, and the previous ketamine treatment, that my spiritual path was meant to be in practice, not entheogens.


Worst of all, when I came out of it the horrible headache was back, and it again lasted the entire rest of the day. I’ve taken that as my message from the All that I’m not meant to do any more ketamine treatments. Still, I’m grateful for the two experiences I had and what they showed me.


And those are my three experiences with entheogens. I don’t have any plans to use them again. I suppose that if I ever reached a place of being really stuck again, and it felt like the right thing to do, the one I would do again would be a facilitated experience with mushrooms. That was the best experience of them all. But I really believe that my spiritual path is meant to be in practice, without added substances.

 

Endnotes


1. I think each journey like this begins with losing control over what is going to happen – my mind can't make something happen, and can't stop what's happening. My ego is no longer in control, and that's scary every time. Perhaps there will come a time that the fear won't come when the journey starts. But till then, it's okay to start with fear. I know now that I will go beyond the fear as the inner journey unfolds.


2. This reminds me of an experience I had with Roshi in a Big Mind workshop. Roshi asked to speak to the voice of Big Heart. When I shifted into that consciousness, I felt my arms expand, until they became large enough to embrace the entire Universe. They needed to be large enough to hold everything and everyone, to let them feel my love, so they wouldn’t feel alone or scared. But after awhile that wasn’t enough, because they might not know my arms were around them and I couldn’t bear for them to think they were alone. So I had to do more than hold them in my embrace. I had to pour myself out into them and become them. I had to become them so that their suffering would be my suffering, so that no matter what they could or could not perceive in the moment, not one of them would ever be alone because I AM them, for every moment of their existence.


3. Pfeiffer, Franz, translated by C. De. B. Evans. Meister Eckhart Vol. 1. 1924. John M. Watkins. Pg. 148. Because I don’t want to limit any idea of God by gender, where Eckhart uses the word “Father” I use “God,” and where he uses “the Son,” I use “Christ.”



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