“When your actions describe a system of evil consequences, you should be judged by those consequences and not by your explanations.”
Frank Herbert

Children of Dune

5.5 grams

n

On June 22nd I finally experienced psychedelic mushrooms. I’d been thinking about it for a couple of years.

The previous day I was having yet another “dead-end” day with Iulia and I wanted to look into that. But I awoke to the potential late in the day. My stomach was full with dinner. I was confident about going in within the context of our relationship as it was in the present moment. I was not confident that the actual present moment was the right time. It would have been a night trip and I was not sure that was a good choice (and I do not like to disrupt my natural biological rhythms). I spoke to Josh (who has some mushroom experience) about it (and the context in which it was arising) and from our conversation, it seemed that a day-trip (the following day) would probably be better.

I let Iulia know about my decision and asked not to be disturbed. She would be there to look after my physical well-being. I asked her explicitly not to come near me if she is carrying anxiety, fear, worry, or doubt.

I started my next day as usual. However, instead of sitting with the next Samkhya verse, I watched this video ( a gift from Jennifer) about the Hebrew alphabet and how it may hold a key to a meditative physical movement. It was a conscious choice. Samkhya, especially the verses I am currently encountering, felt like a movement towards a hypothetical abstract that currently feels like a slow and heavy movement. A physical manifestation of the Hebrew alphabet felt like reaching into my embodied roots. Roots seemed like a good idea.

Going In

I then went on to my on-the-mat practice and from that transitioned to the mushrooms. I started with a 1.5 gram dose. Chewed it for quite some time and sat quietly with it. After sitting I laid down. Nothing seemed to happen for almost an hour. After an hour I noticed a quietness in my breath. Though I felt clearly involved in the breathing, I also felt a bit removed from it. Being slightly distant from it I felt it become softer, deeper, and eerily silent. Then I had to pee for the first of many times.

I walked out to the large poplar tree across the road. It is the furthest point (~40 meters) I go to pee so it included a “walk.” I felt a bit light-headed and generally light. As I was watering the trees I realized that something was different about the sound of the leaves shaking in the wind. It was loud and sharp.

This was nice, but I wanted to go deeper. I decided to ingest another 1.5 grams. This also took the better part of an hour to take effect. I recall sitting with it and being deeply involved in my breath. I played with jivha, jalandhara bandhas and uddiyana sthana and felt a charge building up inside me. Then the breath took on a life of its own and my body became much more involved … I remember my head slowly moving up and down and that movement projecting down into my spine. I could now switch voluntarily between what felt like two distinct modalities. One was facing inwards, quiet, deep, indulgently nice … where there was less of me. The other was facing outwards where there was more of me … sharp and alert.

I got up to pee again. This time I took the box of mushrooms and the scale and handed them to Iulia in the kitchen. I asked her to prepare for me another 1.5 grams while I went to visit the poplar tree again – this time it would not just be peeing, but also a social visit. Here the experience took a turn.

Confrontation

Iulia has a gift of laughter. It is a beautiful gift that can bring light into darkness. But I have also experienced it as an escape from … well … rigorous and potentially dark inquiry. Now, in the kitchen, on my way out, I met her laughter and it was different. I couldn’t resist it. When she laughed I also had to laugh. Her laughter felt like a physical quality. I turned around, my back facing her, and recall experiencing the laughter in that physical orientation … and I felt as if that “laughing matter” passed into me from behind and up through me. I thought “wow, this is her essence! this is Iulia!”

I went out to my friend the poplar tree and leaned against it. Initially, I closed my eyes and was engulfed by the sound of the leaves. Then I opened my eyes and saw the bark of the tree so vividly. It’s rough infinite texture and so much moss. I ran my fingers over it and heard with amazing clarity the sound of my fingers scraping over the bark.

When I turned around to face the house Tana and Indi were across the street looking at me. Standing, watching, but not coming. I summoned them over and they both came and they both went directly into their “correct” physical positions, manifesting their relationship with me. I was kneeling. Tana sat to my left and bowed her head to be touched. Indi laid down on the ground on my right, slipped her head under my knee, and assumed her place of surrender to me (early in our relationship we had to do some work and she had to learn to surrender to me). But though she assumed a surrendered position she was pawing me demanding attention. I placed my hand on her leg and held her down and immediately connected to an essence of struggle. Indi and I explored struggle together for a few minutes. Again, I felt like I was meeting some kind of essential-matter that was Indi. After a few minutes, we did find stillness together.

I walked back to the house enjoying the enhanced sense of seeing. Everything seemed brighter, sharper, and slightly tinted with a blue-ish cool quality. Iulia left the next 1.5 grams in the kitchen for me, I took them and went back into my room. I ingested that too and as I was chewing it something shifted.

From here on out my recollection has a mixed quality. There are parts that I remember with a feeling of extreme clarity. There are parts that I am not sure happened and there may be things that did happen that I do not recall. Also, the timeline starts to become less clear.

I picked up a scent of incense. I thought I saw Iulia moving around with it. She knows that I am sensitive to incense and am not always open to it. Yet she made a decision to use it. When I sat down again the smell of incense was me … and it was not just a small but a feeling. I called out to Iulia (who was in the other room) and said “please do not do things I did not ask you to do” … no reply. In retrospect, I believe this was a turning point. I do not know if I would have initiated communication with her if it wasn’t for the incense … for the intervention. In my sober-conscious mind, it represents an interventionist pattern, a pattern where she assumes she knows what I think or need. Now, with the mushrooms, uninhibited, I spoke it out.

I was bothered by the lack of reply so I called out “Can you hear me?” … and I recall feeling a change in the silence. It felt like it went from a silence where she didn’t hear me to a silence where she chose not to answer me, to ignore me. I was sitting on the floor and my eyes were closed … still chewing. I became more demanding: I called out asking her to stop ignoring me, and to answer my calls. Eventually, she came into the room. Still chewing.

I started a conversation. She felt distant. Though my eyes were closed I felt like I could see her. Both her words and her body language felt distant to me. I asked her (and would ask many times in the coming hours) to drop the narrative that “I am high on a trip” and to speak to me directly. She was avoiding me. She snapped quickly into her trainer/coach/therapist mode and, no matter my pleas, responded with “this is not about me, it is about you.” Her responses felt violent to me. I became more firm in my talking (though I moved back and forth between speaking loud and clear and whispering). I asked to address and acknowledge the violence I was feeling from her. She avoided … silence. I remember telling her “I did not put that violence in you” and to that, she responded … and her response remains in my consciousness as a pivotal moment, she said, “that is true.”

I ingested her answer and that became a seed in my consciousness. Still chewing. I asked her “Is your statement ‘that is true’ an acknowledgment of the violence?” and this turned into a dance. She avoided it “this is not about me, this is about you” and I refused to turn away or surrender. Eyes closed, still chewing. I felt my own energy rising in intensity (I felt sharp and demanding) and settling into softness (where I felt deeply understanding and accepting of our situation). I tried and tried to reach her … until I accepter her evasion. I remember laughing and saying to her “you thought this was going to be about me, that I was going to have some kind of hallucinatory experience, you did not expect this to become about you.” I felt I could see her, into her, past her … to the events that made her distant. I recall feeling amused and sincerely surprised that this was the direction this experience was going. I expected it to turn inwards … yet it became a deeply relational experience. I felt so whole, so completely me … as I write these words this seems at odds with the so-called “ego-death” … but this did not feel like it was coming from a place of ego … I felt surrendered and indifferent … all that was left was a “Truth of the moment” and I felt like I was speaking from and into that.

I felt a wish for Iulia to sit in front of me and to take my hands so that I could see her. But I felt that she was not available to be seen. I shared with her my wish and that I am not expressing it as a wish becuase I feel she is not available.

I had been watching the time between dosages. I allowed for at least 40 minutes between doses and I tried not to allow for more than an hour to pass … I wanted a build-up and not an extension. Feeling that Iulia was not meeting me in conversation I felt a sense of surrender and settled back into myself. I also realized that I want to go further. I told Iulia I wish to go further and take another gram. I am not sure if her response was immediate or there was more interaction … but I remember her running to the bedroom. I KNEW soooo viscerally she was manifesting mistrust, she was having an opinion about my choice, she thought she knew better and she chose to interfere. This was another turning point.

She got to the bedroom in time to hide the box but I got there quickly. I stood there and felt the mistrust. I realized that it had something in common with her laughter. I felt the mistrust as a physical quality, I could now feel it moving inside me. Then I realized that there was something deeper at play. I felt BECOMING. I BECAME her laughter and now I was BECOMING her mistrust. The extreme open-ness I was experiencing made me susceptible to BECOMING … and I felt and realized it in the moment. Then I felt another quality arising … she was willing to stand in my way … violence! I shared this realization with her … the presence of BECOMING and the potential for violence. I’d intuited this potential when she bolted from the room … now I was feeling it. I knew I would not, could not hurt her, but I knew that if she stood in my way I would go through her.

I spoke it out, I felt very sharp and elaborate and I believe I spoke clearly. And we were back on the theme she avoided minutes ago … violence. I asked her again to acknowledge the violence that she presenced. She refused. I repeated it becoming more demanding … she stood in silence … I repeated it again … and again … I was projecting A LOT of power. She closed her eyes. I demanded that she open her eyes and look at me. She turned away. I moved closer. She moved away. She made a quick gesture (to light a candle?) and I stopped her. I felt her fear. I asked her what she felt RIGHT NOW … silence … avoidance. I brought her to tears. I stepped back with a sense of satisfaction. I said, “good, very good, NOW we are relating, NOW we are together, finally.” There was some silence … and settling.

I was aware that I did not know where the mushrooms were. But I knew they were in the room. The mistrust was vital and alive in me. I told her that I don’t trust her. I felt that if I stepped away from the room it would give her more opportunity to hide the mushrooms from me. We talked. In our conversation the following day, Iulia said she felt that I just wanted “more and more” and I know that not to be true (and I felt that even in the sober conversation the next day, she still didn’t believe me). I was not experiencing any craving or “drug obsession”. I was not able during the trip nor after the trip to convince Iulia that she is relating to her own projections and not to me and my experience. Distant! I clearly wanted to take one more step in. Iulia asked to wait a bit longer before taking the next dose, We reached an agreement.

I remember going back to my room and Iulia coming after me. I remember standing there, face to face. I don’t remember how the conversation started. But I remember pointing with my finger into the space between us … I remember asking, begging, demanding her to acknowledge that she placed violence there in the space between us. “We both did” was the best she could offer … escape … escape escape. Never mind. These conversations don’t go well when “I am sober”, there was not reason to expect it to go well when “I was high.”

However this conversation took some time … so I asked her to go get the last gram. I sat down and she went off. I was feeling sharp and clear and wanted her to be that way. But I heard her bustling around, going from the bedroom to the bathroom … I did not know what she was doing … but the mistrust was still there. I called out to her and said “please do only what you have to do to come here with the mushrooms, I am experiencing every single sound you make right now as deep vibrations of either trust or suspicion.” In the conversation we had afterward she made clear to me that the noises I heard were her trying to get the box out of hiding.

She brought me the last gram on a small plastic tray and I asked her to place it on the floor before me. There it was. This time I did ask her to sit in front of me. She did. My eyes are closed. The gram is between us. I asked her to take my hand. She did. I could feel some physical discomfort in her. I asked her to make herself more comfortable. She replied she is comfortable … more avoidance. I took the gram and ingested it and gestured for her to move the small plastic tray away. She did. I thanked her for noticing and understanding my gesture. Then she moved and made herself more comfortable! I asked her to acknowledge that she was now more comfortable. She kind of did … still avoidance. I asked her to take my hand again … her touch felt distant. I asked her to recall the shift she just made that made her more comfortable … and asked her to take my hand that way. She took it … her touch felt slightly more present, softer. I asked her to place my hand back where she found it. We repeated this numerous times … until I felt that we again arrived at a limit … that she was not available to come any closer. My eyes closed the whole time … I did not get around to opening my eyes and to seeing her. I asked her to leave the room.

At some point during this phase, I asked Iulia to try to reach out to Josh. I knew he knew I would be tripping and that he was aware of the context I was carrying into the experience. I did not wish to speak to Josh. I wanted for Iulia to be able to talk about what she was experiencing to someone who could relate to the situation. I scared her, I wanted someone to tend to her fear. She reached out, but it would take some time until he would respond.

Complete

After sitting quietly for a while I got up. I picked up a few cherries from the kitchen and went outside to sit on the steps that lead into the house. It was sunny. I was 5.5 grams in and I felt intensely focused and present. I remember the feeling that the light was very bright. I remember being curious about being curious about (<- not a typo ) the succulent cherries in my mouth, but I wasn’t. I was enamored by the trajectory of the pits as I tossed them into the grass … it was as if they moved in slow motion and I could easily follow their trajectory.

I felt complete. No mystical experience. No veil penetrated. No hallucinations. No monsters. Just me. Full, present, intense, radiant me. It was self-affirming. I did wonder though … was there more ahead? was I resisting? would I discover a blind spot if I went further? how many grams would it take for me to lose myself? how many more grams to astral visions?

Iulia came to sit by my side. The confrontation with Iulia was now complete. I had an embodied sense of the gap between us. A gap I’ve been experiencing for a couple of years. I could see there was no point in me trying to move forward as long as she responded with evasion and avoidance. I felt surrendered and empowered by the acceptance. I asked her how many more grams would she like to see me ingest? How many more grams until the mushrooms gave HER a more desirable outcome from me? She thinks I need therapy, that I have blind spots, that I am traumatized. The mushrooms didn’t heal, didn’t shed light on the blind spots and I don’t resonate with the trauma-framing, not when sober, nor when high. I was not dissolved by the mushrooms, I was crystallized, solidified. I asked her, in a direct, present, clear tone, if she would like me to take more … maybe more will get me to where she thinks I need to get? She replied “No.” I asked why? The only reply she had to offer was “you’ve had enough” … distant, evading, refusing to meet me in the moment. But that is OK. It is how we have been for a long time. It is how we are now. It is probably how we will continue to be.

She moved closer to me and embraced me.

Suddenly a thought landed sharply and clearly in my mind. I turned to her and said with some urgency: this is a unique moment, an opportunity, since you and I will not get past this point, please go, right now, and call someone, whoever you want, and have an honest and sincere conversation about what YOU are experiencing right now. RIGHT NOW! She started evading … this isn’t about me it’s about you … what about you … how about you talking to someone (5.5 grams and she is still pitching me therapy). I turned to face her … looked directly into her eyes. I begged her to stop evading me. We were both in tears. I repeated the proposition that was so alive in me … go speak to someone RIGHT NOW. Her last reply was “but what if I don’t want to?” … to which I replied, “then don’t! you don’t need to fight me.” She went in and spoke to a friend.

I felt complete. I was done. I did what I came here to do. I went back to my room, grabbed a pillow and laid down on the floor.

Lost

From this point on the experience changed and became more trippy. I do not recall hallucinations. I recall lying down on the floor … and getting up to go outside to pee. Many times. I lost track of time. I did not feel disoriented but I was not sure where I was. I aske Iulia many times: what time is is? how much mushrooms did I take? I knew the answers, but wanted to check myself.

During one of my pee excursions, Iulia called out to me – Josh came online and responded. I went to her room. The chat was open but an audio/video connection was not yet established. I couldn’t handle the technology and asked her to connect us. Josh was coming out of a shopping mall and his connection was unsteady – he was breaking up. I remember thinking: “I definitely don’t need a breaking up experience right now!” Iulia tried to fix it … she asked Josh “Are you on?” and I broke into uncontrollable laughter so hard I was barely able to say the words that were in my mind: “I don’t know about Josh but I AM ON!” and added, “maybe you could choose your words more carefully?”

Finally, a connection was established. Josh and I had a short interaction. Iulia moved away, clearly signaling that she did not want to partake in this conversation. I said this to Josh. I wanted him to witness the situation. To witness me and to witness her. I indicated to him that the way the conversation was happening, that I was forcing it on Iulia because she didn’t want it. I asked Josh to repeat to me what he heard me say and indicated that I will wish to talk to him after I come down from the trip to hear what he witnessed (we had a conversation the next day).

At one point I told Iulia I wanted to speak to her friend, to hear from her what Iulia told her. She called her and held up the phone to me. I was direct: “can you please share with me what Iulia told you?” She answered “we talk a lot, which conversation do you mean” … there it is again … evasion. We had a short interaction … I quickly realized it wasn’t going anywhere … I had no interest in playing games … I was being direct and sincere and wanted a response in kind … no luck … so I said thank you and goodbye.

During most of this phase, I felt mellow. But the time disassociation made me wonder if I was being manic. Sometimes, when I went to pee, I felt like I had just been out to pee … so it felt like an erratic back and forth movement. I asked Iulia if she felt I was being manic? She had to look up the word and told me that no, she didn’t think I was manic. I do not know how many such cycles I went through, I do know it went on for ~2 hours.

Iulia was present in many of these iterations, while I was lying on the ground. THAT made me feel a bit delusional. I was not sure she was really there and asked her many times: are you really here? I felt like I was in a movie coming in and out of scenes with Iulia – like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind:

I wasn’t sure when a scene started or when it ended … but the scenes felt distinct. Each time she was in a different position. Sitting next to me, standing next to me, sitting behind me, strumming her Ukelele (which sounded so out of tune – but whole in its own way) – I took this picture near the end – so I could confirm it was real:

I remember her hands … finally holding my hands softly. I remember thinking: “she figured out how to take my hand.” I remember talking, now feeling more vague and distant … no longer sharp and present. I was surrendered, I had said what I wanted to say. Because of the fuzziness at this point, I do recall saying to Iulia that I hope that I did say out loud everything I thought I said. I finally did get to look at her … it was a soft looking … not the penetrating looking I desired earlier. I saw her face age … her wrinkles deepening and spreading.

I remember a recurring feeling of being “alone on the ground” … it persisted even when Iulia was next to me holding my hand.

I remember feeling and expressing to Iulia a sense of deep tiredness. Not just from the current experience … but an accumulated life experience.

I remember that my perception of the carpet changed. It felt so bright and clean … and now it was fading into a darker color … it felt like it needed cleaning.

At one point our shared sober understanding and the gap between us began to re-appear. I began to feel tiredness and heaviness. Another round outside to pee. Walking back inside … this time not lying down. Standing, a bit confused. This is ending. I plugged my phone into the amplifier, sat in front of the speakers and turned up the volume, and played this song:

The song ended … silence remained. I opened the door to my room and found Iulia crouched in the door frame.

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