It was in 2018 that I first came to hear about Magic Mushrooms. For those of you who are unfamiliar, these are a form of naturally occurring mushrooms that fall under the category of Psychedelics. Psychedelics are types of drugs that trigger changes in perception, mood and cognition. I found this definition online, which is partly why I find this to be bit of an oversimplification, which you will see why throughout the rest of this blog post. Magic mushrooms contain an ingredient known as Psilocybin, which, when consumed is converted in the body to Psilocin, a chemical that induces certain psychoactive properties by activating the serotonin receptors in parts of the brain, notably the medial prefrontal cortex.
Part 1: Before the Trip:
Of course, back in 2018, I didn’t give much thought to the idea of tripping on mushrooms, or any drug or substance for that matter. At the time, drugs to me appeared to be somewhat of a means of escape, not too different from alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, sex, anything that releases dopamine that helps an individual momentarily forget about their present life. Things have changed a little bit since 2018. My experience finishing university, finding work, meeting new people, visiting new places, learning about philosophy, spirituality, everything has contributed towards shaping my mind to whatever it is now. Philosophy helped me understand that nothing in life can be known for certain, and that nothing really is what it appears to be after a moment of close examination. My mind slowly opened up to learning new things, meeting even more people, trying new substances, substances that I previously would have been reluctant to even think about trying. Each experience had something valuable to offer.
Something valuable to take away.
For the past few months, I was feeling overwhelmed with some of what my life was offering me. Events in my personal and professional life were becoming difficult to deal with. Granted, I had support from friends and family, but this was deeper, more intrinsic. I called a very close friend of mine, the one who happened to be who told me about magic mushrooms back in 2018. I wanted to trip, and he was kind enough to arrange for the mushrooms and join me on the day. I went in not knowing what to expect, thinking they’re just drugs. I even had a brief conversation with my friend before the trip as he was trying to explain what it was like. Looking back now, I can’t remember the last time I was this happy to have been proven wrong. Tripping on mushrooms is not an experience that’s easy to describe, especially to someone who has never tried Psilocybin themselves. For those of you who’ve known me for a while, you’d know how much I like to deconstruct and break things down in detail. Through my words, I’m going to share what this experience was like.
I must mention however, that psychedelic drugs are not like other forms of drugs. Depending on who you speak to, you might hear different things, both positive and negative about how a trip feels like. Magic mushrooms are valuable substances that I would ideally like every person to experience at least once in their waking life, but only at the right time. When that time is, depends from person to person. I do not consider these to be a bucket list item waiting to be ticked off just for the sake of it. If you are interested, I would highly encourage researching a bit about psychedelics and speaking to people who have tried them before deciding to trip yourself. There will be moments while reading this where you might think I’m crazy, or talking like a spiritual cultist of sorts. Bear with me, and join me in reliving what turned out to be one of the most profound experiences of my life.
Part 2: On the Trip:
It was a cloudy, windy day with a few teasing showers here and there. I went to my friend’s house around 1pm. He was there with another friend of his. Both of them had their own fair share of psychedelic experiences in the past, and were eager to join me for my first. 2 grams is a typical beginner’s serving size. Dissolved in a glass of warm water, the mushroom tea brewed for a few moments before I began sipping on it. By 2pm I had consumed all of it, so now it was time to wait. Mushrooms usually can take between 40 to 50 minutes to show their effects. I wasn’t eyeing the time waiting for something to happen, although I was observing how I’m feeling and whether anything comes about that’s not particularly normal.
I think it was around 3pm, that it started.
The door knocked. It was my friend’s housemate who had just returned from work. This was merely the second time I was meeting her; we were just friends who happened to have a mutual. I walked up to her and gave her the warmest hug I had given to someone in recent months. I returned back to the couch and everyone gathered around. With no knowledge of what, when or how, I found myself divided into two beings, or entities. It was as if my soul had been detached away from my body. If you’ve watched Doctor Strange in the Marvel movies, it’s like the scene where the wizards separate the astral form from the physical form. In this instance however, I was there, present and more mindful than I had ever been. Divided into two, part of me was behaving and the other part was observing. It’s as if I had completely lost control over what I was doing. The behaving part of me was left vulnerable while the observing part of me watched and deconstructed what was happening inside. I observed that I was smiling, and smiling hard, for no apparent reason. I was smiling so wide that I could feel my cheeks hurt, smiling while my friends were having a regular conversation. I could feel an uncontrollable sense of love and empathy, not for anyone in particular, for everyone and everything. It was like I was a lava cake, oozing out an uncontrollable amount of love and positive energy.
My body became nothing more than a tool for expressing my emotions. A vessel that was responsible for conveying a message from my mind to the outside world. The vessel had no notion of right or wrong, kind or rude, no concern for what my friends would think, and no worry about the consequences. When intoxicated by alcohol or other drugs, one experiences a similar feeling of doing things without thinking of the consequences. The term ‘loosen up’ is often associated with this behaviour. Our face in these instances becomes nothing more than just a mask. The more we’re intoxicated, the more layers peel off the mask and we get to show our true selves to the outside world.
This time though, it was as if the layers had ceased to exist. My face was powerless in controlling my uncontrollable urge to express sheer, genuine love outwards. The smiling was no longer in my control, and I was noticing this through my other 'observing self', which was hard to process but mind-bending at the same time.
Things weren’t happening to me, they were happening through me. The idea of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, all went out of the window. The whole concept of a ‘self’ felt like an illusion. I was in a state wherein my observing self could see my behaving self sit there while all the words, emotions went over my head. It wasn’t that I wasn’t listening, but rather my mind couldn’t help but focus on the stillness of the moment without any conscience of past or future. It was only the present.
I call this state- 'being'. Hold onto this word, I'll come back to it.
Part 3: After the Trip:
Mainstream media and society function such that upon listening to the term ‘drug’, one can’t help but associate it with something negative. Granted, drug and substance abuse is a serious issue plaguing various countries around the world, affecting people of all age groups. This is the part where in usual circumstances, I would write ‘moderation is the key’.
But this time, it’s different. Mushrooms are different.
Probably the only thing that can top the trip itself, is the aftermath of the trip- how it left me feeling afterwards. Other drugs induce feelings of euphoria, excitement, light-headedness, ecstacy, etc., but all temporarily until the effects fade away. As a result, one can say that none of those feelings were natural. It was as if someone injected a dose of ‘feel good’ chemicals in your body, now they're gone so you’re back to normal. So naturally, there comes a temptation to take that dose again, get that high again, because each time you take it, it lasts a short while and subsides very soon, leaving you craving for more.
With mushrooms, that’s not the case, at least it wasn’t for me, which is what made this experience all the more beautiful. An experience that makes me feel as though reducing Psilocybin to just ‘a drug’ does not do justice to how illuminating this can be. My trip didn’t feel as though the positivity, the euphoria, the excitement came externally. It was as if all those existed already, somewhere within my mind. All that was needed was a guiding hand to fetch them out. All of my positive emotions rooted deep inside, brought to the surface. I got a high, and the high stayed; such that I don’t crave it anymore. Of course, there is a part of me that is intrigued to explore the depths of my mind even further, now that I know how expansive it can get. But not in any way like other drugs, substances or forms of escape, where the high might entice you to try it again, luring you towards addiction.
I like to describe this experience, not as one that I found, but rather one that found me. As I mentioned before, my mind was overwhelmed with everything going on in my life. I didn’t trip on shrooms to deal with them, but in doing so I did in fact learn how to deal with them. I’d even go as far as to say I have no choice now that I’ve been shown how to deal with them. For years, Psilocybin has been used in certain parts of the globe to treat symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma, etc. through microdosing. As it’s a naturally occurring substance, magic mushrooms have also been examined in many ancient and mythological scriptures where in some instances, humans have claimed to have interacted with spiritual and mystical beings after consuming these.
Before the trip, one of the friends in the room spoke to me about the concept of ‘being’, one that we had a brief chat about as I was intrigued to know what he meant. I didn’t quite agree with what he had to say, to which he responded that I would see what he meant after the trip. He wasn’t wrong.
The ‘being’ he was referring to was the state of becoming completely ‘present’ in the moment, to the point where one has no notion of past or future, no thoughts, no perceptions, no opinions, no biases, no reaction. Absolute stillness. I’m not sure if this is quite what he meant but this is my take on it, based on my experience on the trip. As my observing self separated from my behaving self, I found myself ‘being’ in that state for a few moments, where things were happening through me, not to me. I was simply just there, like a chair in a home or like a stone in a forest. Looking at everything that overwhelmed me before, I can’t help but think about how these are also simply happening through me. That’s not to say that they aren’t important to me anymore, they are. But ‘being’ in a way shows you everything, through an objective lens.
There’s a concept in philosophy known as nominalism. Nominalism theorises that ideas and concepts only have value because we, as a society have assigned value to it. Words are labels, and everything in essence is objective unless we input something subjective to it through our perceptive lenses. When I combined this idea, with the state of being, the state of having things go through me, it didn’t matter whether or not I was tripping. The trip became ingrained in my way of living. Does this mean that I won’t ever worry again or let things sway my emotions, no. It did help me realise though that some things should be left as they are, without further thought or contemplation. Without overthinking, without overanalysis, without overly worrying about the ifs, the buts and the whys. Leaving things as they are. Leaving them to ‘be’ will help us ‘be’.
Be more, in tune with ourselves.