Psychedelics

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Yesterday I watched a Ted Talk discussing the effects of psychedelic substances on the brain. I clicked on this video absentmindedly, not really expecting it to tell me anything I hadn’t already heard before. To my surprise I was given new insight into why my psychedelic experiences have been the way they are. It also gave me even more reason to believe that psychedelics really do allow us to connect to some deeper consciousness, a divine connectedness. It is a glimpse beneath the veil of our earthly illusions, and the things we think and perceive in these altered states are perhaps more real than the reality our sober minds produce.

I knew that taking psychedelics altered the way our brains perceive the world. I knew that they break down our biases and inner walls so to speak. They remove the shackles of our well worn neuronal connections and allow us the freedom to explore the vast possibilities of our consciousness and perception. What I didn’t know is that this brain state is very similar to one we’ve all experienced before: childhood. Apparently a child’s brain works in a very similar way to a brain on psychedelics. Isn’t that fascinating? I had often described my experiences with LSD as being a child again in a new world. Nothing is taken for granted. Everything is fascinating and new. There is so much joy and curiosity and discovery to be had.

As children none of us were too enmeshed in certain ways of doing things or seeing the world. There were many more possibilities open to us. As we age, our brains naturally start to sink into patterns, strengthening certain neural networks while allowing other, less used pathways to shrivel and shrink with disuse. Eventually we begin to feel trapped in our ways of thinking and seeing the world. It feels impossible to change or view the world from a fresh perspective. And in reality, while it is still quite possible for us to change, it will be much harder than it might have been when we were younger.

Imagine a cart being pulled over the soft earth. Once you’ve made tracks in the dirt, it is easier to follow those tracks again. The more you follow those particular tracks though, the deeper they become. Eventually it will be quite difficult to make new tracks or break out of the ones we have been taking. A child’s mind is an image of virgin land, no tracks, no footprints even, just a great expanse of possibility and wonder. This is one of the reasons, I believe, that adults tend to enjoy children so much. While our own minds may feel incapable of breaking free of our patterns on their own, spending time with a child is sure to be full of surprises and new experiences. Children have the ability to pull us in new directions we would have never considered on our own. Kids are funny. Kids are weird. Kids are surprising, unpredictable even. That is the magic of a newly developing brain. That is the magic we may all experience again for ourselves with the help of psychedelics.

This comparison to a child’s mind helps explain a lot of the experiences I’ve had with LSD. The idea that psychedelics are able to break down our preconceived ways of seeing the world only strengthens my conviction that the feelings and truths I’ve experienced in that altered state of mind are real. LSD isn’t making me hallucinate or become delusional. LSD helps me to break through the illusions that I live inside of. It helps me see the world for what it is again, through fresh eyes, with the innocence and imagination of a child. I don’t for a second believe it’s a coincidence that one of the reoccurring perceptions people come away from a psychedelic experience with is that we are all connected. There is a powerful feeling of connectedness, contentment, joy, peace, trust. It is reconnecting with the wisdom of the universe, a deep sense of reassurance that everything is as it should be. There is also the ever present image that everything in life is a cycle, and that it’s okay to have faith in and surrender to that cycle. Now more than ever, I feel confident in that belief.

Alex Grey's “Gaia” | Pinkocrat

The Importance of Patience

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I’ve mentioned before that my mother is practically the holy saint of patience. At least when it comes to my sister and me. I have seen her lose her temper at my grandma or my dad a few times, but whenever it comes to her kids, she seems to have a limitless supply of time, compassion, and understanding. I have always been dazzled by this impressive character trait. I’m not sure why, but I certainly didn’t seem to have any of that passed down to me.

I can still remember my mother playfully commenting on my lack of patience when I was younger. I didn’t think much of it. I’ve always known that I am a very impatient person. I guess part of me just assumed that I’d get better at it as I got older. And that has happened somewhat. I certainly have more than I did as a child, but still no where near as much as my mother or my grandmother.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I have been spending time with my mom doing various tedious adult things like taxes and looking for a new car. She is very slow and meticulous with everything that she does. That’s how she drives, that’s how she eats, that’s how she communicates. I would imagine almost a serene, monk-like state existing behind her eyes if I didn’t know how anxious she actually is a lot of the time under the surface. When I spend time with her like this, it really emphasizes our different levels of patience.

Although, I generally restrain myself for as long as I can, I always feel the urge to start rushing her through things. Her slow pace makes me feel even more frantic for some reason. I begin to feel like jumping out of my skin. I’ve started to wonder how different it would feel to be a more patient person like her. She never seems to be rushing herself like I perpetually am. This sense of urgency really exacerbates my anxiety and it is ever present. Even when I find myself doing something for the purpose of killing time, I notice myself flying through it as fast as I can.

This lack of patience even comes up in my yoga practice. Most people would assume that the faster vinyasa flow classes or power yoga would be the most challenging, but really it depends on the person and what it is you’re wanting to challenge. Sure, those types of classes may be more physically challenging, but the slower classes are far more mentally challenging if you ask me. I am able to easily lose myself and surrender to the fast-paced movements of strenuous flows, but holding a seated forward fold in a yin yoga class can really test my ability to relax and stay with the breath. I notice a lot of students who also really struggle to relax and just lie there at the end of class in savasana.

Life already seems to be flying by at break-neck speed without the added stress of internal urgency. Sometimes it’s important to stop and ask ourselves exactly why we are rushing. Occasionally there is good reason, maybe your running late and need to get to work on time for a meeting, or you have to squeeze a lot of important tasks into the few free hours of your day. I’d imagine most people are able to relax after meeting whatever deadline they were so frantic to meet, but for me that sense of “not enough time” will keep following me long after.

It’s almost humorous how much I rush myself along. I rush to make coffee, to brush my teeth, to cook dinner, to workout, to get dressed, basically anything you can think of. I’ve gotten more speeding tickets than I’d like to admit. Earlier today I realized that I am also rushing myself in other ways. I never allow myself the time and space I need to meet my goals or aspirations. Because of the unrealistic time frames I always give myself to make changes, I always end up feeling like a failure or that I’m just not good enough. I end up giving up on what I set out to do before I’ve even given myself a fair chance. I never let myself simply enjoy the process.

Practicing mindfulness and meditation has been a wonderful help to me. They help me remind myself that I am exactly where I need to be. I am doing exactly what I need to be doing. It is worth more to do something well than to do it quickly. A rushing mindset is practically the opposite of mindfulness. I am always focusing on the next thing I have to do, ignoring the task I’m currently engaged in. Always struggling to be ahead of the current rather than letting it carry me. Most of the time when I ask myself what the purpose of this hurrying is, I come up blank. It is so easy for me to forget that life truly is about the journey rather than the destination. After all, I’m not really sure where that destination even is or if I’ll ever actually reach one. What would I do if I did?

There is no starting or stopping point in this mess we call life. Like I’ve said before, everything is a cycle. We can’t waste our time worrying about what lies ahead or behind. All that matters is taking the time to enjoy wherever we are in that cycle right now. There is really nothing else we can do. So today I’d like for my intention to be patience. I want to challenge my automatic movements. I want to slow down and take the time to really savor each moment, especially when it feels like I don’t have time. Time is just an illusion, a trick we play on ourselves. This soul, however, is infinite. This mind is limitless. This love is ever present and all consuming. Everything is as it should be. Now is the perfect time to revel in that truth, to be joyous, to be mindful, to be fully present.

Cycles

Everything’s a cycle. You’ve gotta let it come to you. And when it does, you will know what to do.

– Bright Eyes

Happy spring, everyone! I am so pleased to welcome this most lovely of seasons back again. While I adore the summer months, spring is probably my true favorite. There is nothing quite like the fresh, bright, vibrant energy of this time of year. There is so much beauty in contrast. I’ve always found it funny the way 55-60 degree weather in the fall seems dreadfully cold to me, yet the very same temperature is a godsend in the spring. At the end of the year I’d consider this weather too chilly for a walk, but now I am itching to be outdoors in the sunshine again. I used to dream about moving somewhere south so that I wouldn’t have to experience the snow and bitter cold of winter every year, but as I’ve grown older I’ve developed an attachment to this area of the country. Sometimes we need to face discomfort or adversity in order to fully appreciate and savor the rest of life. There is a lot that the cycling of seasons has to teach us if we are willing to witness their endless unfolding.

There is a strange comfort that repetition brings us. This constant ebb and flow that exists everywhere in this life is truly something beautiful to behold. This constant churning keeps life from becoming stagnant. It really is true that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Without the colorless cold, the bitter wind, the once lush trees reduced to creaking black skeletons, we would not be able to fully appreciate watching the landscape come alive again. We wouldn’t be able to experience this bustling, rustling, vibrating energy as the earth comes alive once more. The sensation of new life, of awakening, of hope that spring stirs within us is unparalleled. It never gets old no matter how many years we have had here.

Spring reminds us that we need not fear the winter. It also insinuates that we need not fear even death. Imagine how frightened the first conscious creatures were that lived through winter. Surely with no guarantee, I would have assumed all was ending forever. Just as many of us feel facing death without faith in a god or an afterlife. There are no guarantees. No scientific evidence that we can analyze to suggest that anything exists beyond our final breaths. Still I find my own kind of faith in all of the cycles I see around me every day. Some cycles are as short as the ever-present rhythm of the breath, some are too long for us to comprehend or observe in a single lifetime. But I trust in the cyclical systems that surround us, that are within us, that we are inextricably involved in. While I may not be able to say what the cycle of life and death fully looks like, or even what it means for me, I am confident it is still a cycle all the same. I may not be there to witness the spring that blooms on the other side of my existence on this earth, in this body, in this mind, but I am confident that that spring exists. But for now, while I am still here, I am going to keep trying to learn from these cycles, to be mindful of them, to be grateful for them, to be patient with them, and to honor and accept where I am within them.

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Outgrowing Selfishness

I’ve always thought of myself as a very self-centered person. Autism could be a contributing factor to a lot of my more selfish tendencies. It’s not ever been a malicious selfishness. I’m not acting in my own interest at the expense of others. If I ever have, I’ve only unwittingly done so. It’s more like sometimes I forget to consider other people entirely, because I am too busy being consumed by my own inner world. I can still remember when I was very young, noticing that other people would often compliment someone else’s clothing or hair, etc. I remember asking my mom why I never felt the urge to do that, even if I did like something about someone else. I assumed it was only because I was shy and socially anxious. Only after I began forcing myself to compliment people did it become a comfortable, natural habit. I was surprised to discover that it even made me happy.

As I continue to get older, I’ve noticed myself becoming more and more interested in being of use to other people. And the way that thinking of and helping others is its own reward. I once thought selfishness was just a personality trait. I’ve now started to wonder if it’s simply an aspect of youth. I remember hearing about older people focusing their remaining energies on giving back to the community and supporting their family. It seems like in the later stages of life, giving back, sharing what you’ve learned and acquired with others, becomes the most personally fulfilling thing. I always had a hard time imagining myself in this role. Now it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

I’ve heard the metaphor of life being compared to a wave in the ocean. In the beginning we are one with the sea, then we crest for a time, the illusion of an individual entity, before eventually falling back into the water we came from. The longer I live, the more convinced I become of two things about this life: Everything is a cycle, and everything is one. These are the fundamental truths I keep coming back to when I have my spiritual experiences with LSD. It is comforting and profound. I can see it everywhere I look. It gives me hope that every ending inevitably leads to a new beginning on both a micro and macro scale.

The idea of the fluctuation of selfishness throughout life seems to fall into that framework as well. When we are born, we are totally dependent on others. Although no longer in the womb, we are still very much an extension of our mother, feeding from her very body to survive. Then we slowly but surely begin to gain independence. We revel in this newfound freedom, we test it’s limits, we find our individuality, just like the wave on the ocean. For awhile we are lost in the intoxication of this illusion. The illusion that we are separate.

No matter what, if any, religion or spirituality you subscribe to, getting older tends to remind us that we are all one, with our fellow humans, other species, the earth, everything. We all depend on one another, we all live through and because of one another. We’ve all sprouted from the same source, just as we will all return to it someday. Like waves in the ocean. But just like the ocean, the tide is relentless. There is no ending to the ebb and flow, there is a constant undulating cycle. It is a beautiful thing to be reminded of this. For me especially, it is nice to be reminded of the way things change, the way I change without even realizing it. What may seem terrifying and impossible to accept one day, seems as easy as breathing when the time finally arrives. We don’t need to worry about how we will handle situations in the distant future, because this current version of ourselves won’t be the one dealing with it anyway. We’ve simply got to keep going and trust that when we get there we will be the person we need to be to get through it.

So there is nothing to fear. Not even death. Because no matter how many cycles come to an end, a new one starts simultaneously, spiraling out into infinity. For a time it may be important for us to be selfish, to learn how to best take care of this newfound self. But there is also beauty and comfort in playing with the very idea of “self.” What made me decide to draw the line where I have? Why is this body the only thing I consider me? Maybe I am actually more than this. That boundary seems to be expanding, little by little, every day. And one day this little brief wave that I am will have fully submerged once again.

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Routines

Last night I had a dream that I was a child again. I was in my old rec room at my parents’ house. There I sat behind the couch with my Hamtaros, playing. I hadn’t a care in the world. For what reason did I decide to go back there and play? What signaled me to stop eventually? Why, my own desire, my intuitive self, that thing I was once so in tune with without even knowing. There is such a gentle flush of comfort and peace when I imagine being that carefree child again. I was able to do whatever my little heart desired.

It is not as if I don’t have the time or the freedom to do as I please now. Sadly, I just don’t know how to do that anymore. I could do whatever I like today, but what would I like? I have lost that precious connection with my own heart, my own desire. My intuition has gone silent. When did that happen? When did I change? Now each day is so rigid and unrelenting.

There is a certain comfort in routine. In the beginning that structure feels satisfying, productive. I seem to always notice a “sweet spot” where I am enjoying a routine to its fullest. It feels like I’ve found the perfect flow. However, nothing lasts forever.

Eventually that same routine that gave me so much joy, become suffocating. I feel caged by it. Unable to escape my rigid schedule for any reason even though it no longer make me happy like it once did. I don’t know if other people experience this, but it is very frustrating. Everything in life is a cycle. I know that. I see it everywhere I look. It can be a beautiful and awe inspiring thing. Yet I can never seem to find my way through my own cycles.

When I try to imagine how I would move through my day without following these ingrained routines, I am at a complete loss. I have no idea what I would do. Therefore it is always so much easier to just give in and do things the way that I did the day before. It seems like only a huge change that is out of my control is ever able to shake me from my pattern. Like with any big change, especially when it isn’t a choice, I am petrified at first. But there is a sort of aliveness in that terror, in that uncertainty. For a moment I almost feel free. Free to start again. That is when I am able to form new routines and thoroughly enjoy them for awhile. Unfortunately that period of peace never lasts long.

I am constantly clinging to my old habits and resisting change. Perhaps OCD is partially to blame. I get fixated on doing things a certain way, in a certain order and then can’t bear the idea of things being any other way. Even when the way things are now is no longer serving me. I am afraid to change. But I am also afraid to stay the way I am.

As neurotic as it may sound, maybe I could attempt to plan change. I could schedule my own cycles. Perhaps that would give my brain the structure it craves while also providing it with novelty and freshness. Or maybe I could regularly phase things in and out of my already established routine. Maybe I’ll start reading some books about connecting to your intuition. Even though it seems like that little voice of passion that once pushed me towards certain things has gone completely silent, I know it is still there somewhere. I hope one day I am able to find it again.

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Be Brave, Have Faith

Anxiety tends to chase it’s own tail. Winding you up more and more in a seemingly endless cycle. You notice yourself feeling anxious, then you get anxious about being anxious, and even more anxious because you notice the sickening cycle starting all over again. You feel out of control. You feel helpless. I least that’s the way it always goes for me.

What I’ve started to learn however, is that it’s okay to feel that way. I don’t need to run from those feelings or desperately look for a way to change them. Every moment of our lives don’t have to be full of joy and wonder. We are able to find those things in every moment, but we don’t have to. I think somehow subconsciously I began fearing that I’m wasting long spans of my life with these persistent moments of anxiety, fear, and depression. And maybe I am, but worrying about that on top of everything else certainly isn’t going to help.

Lately when I notice myself getting anxious, I try to remind myself to keep breathing. I tell myself: I am feeling anxious right now, and that is perfectly okay. I try to just notice what it feels like to be anxious rather than trying to push that awareness away. In the end I am the one labeling anxiety as bad and calm as good. But these are all just different expressions of being alive. And it’s always good to be alive. I am grateful for even the anxious moments. Because they are moments that I am experiencing in this world.

I don’t have to be afraid of my anxiety. It is just another part of who I am. I want to make peace with it. Make space for it. Make friends with it. I am trying to have faith that everything will be alright despite feeling anxious. I don’t want to run anymore. I will do my best to stand my ground and confront these difficult feelings head on.

I’m someone who is always looking for the path of least resistance. Avoiding confrontation at all costs. Sometimes I forget that it’s okay to do something even if it’s hard. Because I am strong. I am capable of doing hard things. It feels good to overcome obstacles, to face challenges. And ultimately, it’s even okay to fail. So I am going to trust myself, trust this universe, trust that everything is okay. Because even when I’m feeling afraid, somewhere deep down, some part of me knows I can do anything. I just have to trust. I just have to keep breathing, keep going, and be brave.

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