Taking psychedelics has been a part of the human tradition since ancient times and I've always been interested in the process involved and what it does for the mind, body and spirit. There's plenty of research and literature for you to read if you'd like to know a bit more about those claims but for today I'm going to tell you a little bit about why I like to occasionally explore the darker corners of my mind using this day in particular as an example. My shadow-self that is the part of me usually hidden by ego, consciousness and fear of myself.
It was a sunny morning on the Chilean coast when our brew was finally ready and we decided it was time to begin. The ritual was just as important as the drug to us, so before we began we cleansed with sage, set up a sacred alter with crystals and important mementos, set intentions, meditated and sang before finally deciding we were ready. You wouldn't just jump into a car for a long road-trip without bringing it to a mechanic for a tune up first, right? So why would you ingest a hallucinogen without making sure your mind was in the right spot as well.
There's a lot of fear out there about hallucinogens and I can understand why. It's scary to lose your ego, that part of you that is normally in control and take the time to look beneath your facade to see what lurks below. But that is actually the most fantastic part about it in my opinion. Sure, the visual effects are fun, I love to be in nature and see the actual breath of the trees in the forest or the the patterns of the entire galaxy exposed while stargazing at night, but it's so much more than that.
You can actually begin to work on painful habits, patterns and hurtful behaviors that you display towards yourself and others when you take the time to be introspective and have a hard look within. It can be completely frightening to look at yourself and see the demons that hide inside of you, but when you open the door and let light in they suddenly can seem less scary and more manageable than if you never face them at all.
For this particular instance I decided I wanted to focus on releasing negative memories and pain that I had been harboring and also to work on being present. I'd been traveling for almost three months and felt sometimes that I wasn't enjoying the moments and experiences as much as I should have been and wanted to investigate why. I was feeling like a spectator in my own fantastic reality and I couldn't understand it.
As much as I thought I was prepared for San Pedro to take hold and cleanse me, when it happened I found that I couldn't have even begun to prepare for the first couple of hours once the mescaline kicked in. There is a purging that is inevitable after you ingest the cactus, but I took this to a whole new level. When I imagined letting go of negative energies, bad thoughts and cleaning myself of emotions that no longer served me, I imagined it as a spiritual experience. What I got instead was a bone shaking, soul cleansing expulsion of phlegm, snot, tears, vomit and anything else you might imagine that a body is capable of getting rid of. I couldn't help but to let go and release everything as it came. The amount of fluid that came out of my lungs, which until that point had felt fine was dizzying. It was as if my body had taken my intention of cleansing to an extreme.
While this was somewhat exhausting, I had no fear of what was happening. None of us had shared out intentions at this point, we wouldn't do this until much later that evening, but I knew one of mine was to clean out old habits, I just hadn't expected it to be so physical. After what would turn out to be one of my last coughing fits finally ended, I looked in the mirror and could see that I looked lighter. I felt as if my color was better than it had been in weeks and as soon as it was over, I was ready for the next phase of our day.
Since this was our first time preparing the mescaline, and we did the preparation ourselves with cactus we found on the side of the road, the dose we took was unknown.
Since this was our first time preparing the mescaline, and we did the preparation ourselves with cactus we found on the side of the road, the dose we took was unknown. We guessed that we needed approximately a foot of cactus a piece but it may have been a bit much for my first time. I realized this as we stepped into a grocery store to find snacks and I couldn't take it. If I could have imagined what the seventh circle of hell would be like, this was it.
We had just left an art museum, where I had been overwhelmed by the beauty of simple paintings by locals artists. It was as if I'd never seen art before in my life. All of the phrases about movement and light that I'd heard but never understood or felt suddenly clicked with my brain and I knew what they all meant. They were simple stills of fruit, game animals and women but I connected to them. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend going to an art show or museum on a small dose of something psychedelic. There's a balance though, too much and you won't want to enter the building preferring instead to strip off your clothes and run free in Mother Nature with wild abandon.
But I digress, let's get back to the grocery store. We were walking home from our excursions at the beach and art show when it came to me. See, it was a sweltering day, I'm pretty sure my skin was actually dripping down my legs and making my sandals stick to the sidewalk. As one foot barely was able to lift in front of the other I realized that this weather was why watermelons existed. I could practically feel its sweet flesh bursting within my mouth and I desperately urged the others to come with me to the store. Luckily they did since I didn't last more than 60 seconds inside.
I realized that in order to be present in your life you have to be grateful for it.
When I deemed the watermelon cool enough I tasked myself with cutting and salting it and making a plate of it for us all to snack off of. Another bonus of hallucinogens is the incredible taste of anything you eat. Some people find they don't get hungry, but it love it. If you can see new sights while your brain is open to a wider range of possibilities doesn't it also reason that you can taste new flavors? So we delighted in our new best friend the chilly watermelon and spent the rest of the afternoon talking, relaxing and watching the sunset at nearby Bahia Inglesia.
When we finally returned home for the last time later that evening, the second part of my intention came true. I was making dinner for us as we all winded down from the adventures, feelings and sights from the day when I realized something. I was so incredibly grateful to have these two magnificent people in my life in this random apartment we had rented, in a random town in the middle of nowhere in Chile. I couldn't have imagined being happier in other location on earth. Getting tears of happiness in my eyes while slicing avocado, I knew that I'd found what I was looking for.
I was here, present in my moment and in my life. That was the lesson that was most important for me to take with me that day. I realized that in order to be present in your life you have to be grateful for it. I had spent so much time expecting to feel a certain way that I had forgotten to just open my heart and feel what I needed to feel to be there.
This is why I like to explore my mind, to exercise emotions that get hidden away and to see what I sometimes turn a blind eye to. Sometimes I need to remind myself to be in awe of every moment. It's easy to let the world numb you to experiences and sometimes a little jump start is just what the doctor ordered to get back in the right mindset.