For quite a while now I have been tinkering with many modalities to investigate the mind and the self. When it comes to these matters good or bad is not a part of this non-dual process. Things and feelings just are. I found meditation about 15 years ago and it’s an integral part of every day.
About 4 years ago I heard about isolation (float) tanks and immediately wanted to give it a go. I figured it would be like a meditation supercharger, which I have found is true. The first 60 min experience was like learning to ride a bike, and the following 90 min session some months later was like jumping on the bike and riding it. I have floated a handful of times over the years and always find my body appreciates the near zero-g effect of deep relaxation, and the isolation portion of the senses seems to free my mind to wander, or enjoy razor sharp single pointed attention.
A couple years ago I found that psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms had a deepening effect of spirituality in my life. Not the religion or dogmatic type, but the experiential type. It truly opened my eyes to many light and dark places within my character. Exploring the bemushroomed state can take some time to process, which is why there is so much success when used in conjunction with psychedelic assisted psychotherapy.
When I had reached a point in my explorations where I could no longer process by myself, I reached out to find a psychedelic friendly therapist. One that would not judge me as a “crazy person on drugs”. One that knew the terrain and how to map out integration for self-actualization. Our good friends at MAPS (The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) pointed me in the right direction and I was lucky to be able to find a local therapist that was a great fit.
For the last year I thought it would be pretty incredible to combine all these powerful tools, but I realized there were many moving pieces to the puzzle. I won’t bore you with all the unnecessary details, but the stars seemed to align. I scheduled a 4 hour float session, the longest I would ever attempt by double and by chance no one at this float center had gone that long in a tank. I decided to take the advice of Terence McKenna’s dose of 5 dried grams in silent darkness. All my explorations previous to this had music, which I felt was a MUST with every trip. But I’ve wanted to experience 5DGISD since I heard him speak of it. I instinctively knew there must be something to it. There are not many places that one can experience the kind of silent darkness that is found inside the float tank. Along with no sight and sound, the Epsom salt water solution has the buoyancy of the Dead Sea. You cannot sink. It is also heated to approximately the same temperature of the skin. There is essentially no feeling in the body, like weightlessness. The only smell is a faint odor of salt. So what it creates is a high tech version of silent darkness…
I decided to steep a mushroom tea. I have had previous experience with the tea method and found it has the ability for rapid onset (sometimes within 20 min) and has a slightly shorter duration. It also seems to hit harder and a bit more intense than ingesting the mushrooms alone dried. On the way to the float center I took a couple mindful sips and imagined the psilocybin locking into my neurotransmitter system like DNA synching up in a double helix.
When I arrived to the center I was welcomed by smiles and warm personalities. We talked about floating and some other interesting small talk then I was ushered to my private room. Once I was in the room I drank the remaining ½ of my tea and hopped in the shower to clean off before getting in the clean tank. As I am in the tank room I see it in my mind’s eye as a chrysalis that I will emerge from somehow changed. I have no direction on where my mind will go, only the surrender of whatever will come attitude required to facilitate such a journey. I lay down and I feel my body try and adjust to the weightlessness. It creaks and I feel pain in my back as my spine starts to decompress. Within about 10 minutes I feel myself “sync” with the tank and my arm twitches. A minute later I have a full body twitch and feel complete physical relaxation. Right about this time, psilocybin makes its appearance in the scene. Whenever going deep, especially in a psychedelic arena “Set and setting” is paramount. Setting being the place and surroundings of your area, and the set being your mindset going into the experience. For this experience the setting was perfect and on point exactly how I had planned, however my set was not where I wanted it to be.
The day before was challenging to a close relationship in my life. I actually debated calling the whole thing off, or maybe just go in for the float but not take the rocket fuel. I was concerned that it may facilitate a “bad trip” and debated this over in my mind. I figured whatever I saw during the experience was probably exactly what I needed to see. So with trepidation I stayed the course. Usually I have closed eye and open eye visuals at this dose, but I only see some rainbow colors passing behind the eyelids serenely and then things go completely internal. I’m unsure if it is the lack of sensory, my mindset going in, the preparation of the tea, or whatever but just as things usually go, I start to think about the relationships in my life and what joys and challenges there are. I started to feel how the expectations of others and outcomes may influence my moods, but ultimately I am the one that facilitates the emotions such as anger, jealousy, greed, etc. I have to own it and not shift the blame. I am able to peer with my mind’s eye into some of the actions of others and how my feelings related to them are mostly collateral damage. Most people don’t go through life trying to make things difficult for others… It is mostly just a by-product of a decision to do what is in our human nature… Largely to avoid suffering. The Buddhists call it Dukkha, but it’s more apt to be translated as “unsatisfactoriness”. In moments like these the sense of self seems to start to become translucent… Sometimes the veil drops out completely and you may have what you consider to be a real understanding of the workings within another’s mind. In a way I feel this is the essence of compassion. The feeling of empathy can be overwhelming.
Often on psilocybin I find myself in tears. This experience was no exception. I started to feel the heavy wave start to wane. It can be a good time to take a deep breath and reset. Find the center and prepare for the next blast of whatever may come. I start to take an accountability of my body, which I could barely feel unless I was to move slightly. I started to have a feeling of being surrounded by an amniotic fluid. It wasn’t uncomfortable but wasn’t blissful either. It just was. I felt the stillness deeply now. I had a vision of a scene in the Matrix movie when Neo wakes up in the pod. I felt a strange sensation that this world definitely has an illusory simulation quality behind it. Like a secret right around a hidden corner in plain sight. I remember thinking “someone please wake me up out of this life dream” and found myself whispering silently all I could muster into language. “Wake me up” over and over again.
Another wave passes and I wonder how long have I been in here. I remember my float consultant saying the pump would have to come on at the 3 hour mark. I figured I was about ½ ways through but resolved myself to stay in there no matter what else may surface. I relaxed and focused on the breath again and the next flood of insights soon began. At this point I started to have kind of an overview of all the recent trips, challenges, and changes that have been going on in my life over the last year. It has been exhilarating and humbling. Sometimes both entangled. I start to think of all the things I have learned about myself while really diving as deep as I can. Searching the realms of the shadow and repressed emotions from the past can truly unlock things you never knew about yourself. I feel that I really know myself better at this point with what I want out of life. The problem currently now is not the search, but the integration phase. How to be my truest self without hurting others is the question, especially the ones I love. Is it even possible? There have been many different versions of myself through the years. Is it fair to subject others to constant change needed in my life? The short answer I decide is it’s complicated. I come full circle to the beginning and realize it is a vicious cycle of people accidentally hurting each other, taking things out of context from the originating mind that was subjected to their own filters, the ego taking things too personally as an attack, and ultimately creating friction within the new mind and the relationship of the two entangled in such unconscious psychic murder-suicide. No one means to cause the harm in most cases, just a byproduct of living in the same sphere as other people going on about their lives making one decision or the other again, trying to minimize their suffering or unsatisfactoriness. Right about this time the pumps go on and they are quieter than I was anticipating.
I was expecting the pumps to be very disruptive but I almost didn’t notice the few minutes it was on. I knew I now had an hour left and the first visit of claustrophobia came in. There was a sense of being overwhelmed with all the info that was downloaded into my mind, the turbulent last couple days, and just being confined for so long. It started to turn into a sense of restriction in the sense of not doing some things I desire and feeling restricted. Like a governor switch has been turned off. I have been trying to dial down that governor switch in order to feel and be more “free” but I also see how simultaneously I give control over to others to dictate my life. Really a multi-faceted conundrum that has and will continue to take time to process. Someone once told me that people will go to great lengths to get their control back. I feel if I don’t make it my responsibility, who will?
I spend the final 30 or so minutes listening to some relaxing downtempo music and trying to clear my head. I know I will be getting out soon and moving right into my therapy session. Finally, when I almost can’t take it any longer, the lights slowly dim up signaling me that my time is done. I stand up wearily and shower off the Epsom salt solution, get dressed, and take a deep breath before opening the door (what I still imagine as an emergence from the chrysalis) and into the real world.
When I walk out into the reception area I am greeted by warm smiles, hugs, and verbal pats on the back. I now hold the local float record. My therapist can sense I have been through an ordeal and we retreat to a private space to talk for the next hour. I recount many of the things you just read and more. The talk therapy was so important to just talk through some of the things that were running in my head allowing further investigation and introspection. I still had the immediate insight of psilocybin but it was not debilitating at this point. It was more like razor sharp focus. It was the best session I have ever had.
It has taken me some time to write all this out. Every time I sat down to write it gave me something deeper to consider. It has really even continued the therapeutic process. I don’t expect everyone to dive into the abyss; it’s probably not for everyone. I encourage anyone who desires to explore hyperspace to do your research, plan your set and setting, and come to the experience with reverence or at least a healthy amount of respect. This was a difficult trip, not a bad trip. That being said, those are the ones that teach the most.
Hang Loose out there.