It’s been a while since I last drank ayahuasca. The stinky stuff changed my life but I’m scared shitless of taking it again. And now, when I feel that I could really benefit once more, I just cannot bring myself to drink the wicked healing brew.
Maybe I’m being a bit of a pussy. But even the potentially game-changing properties of that murky, mercurial, magic potion cannot convince me to face the demons that will inevitably plague my visions, thoughts and body for what will seem like forever.
The daimistas call it ‘work’ but that’s not the half of it. Work is doing something you don’t like for a while. Drinking ayahuasca is the most terrifying experience of your life.
At least it is for me, and I’m pretty sure I can’t be alone. Can I?
It baffles me how some people come out of a ceremony having spent hours being caressed by angels inside a velvet-lined light-filled heart-shaped box of luxury chocolates as they pulse glowing beams of golden light out of their asses while listening to little lambs bleating in a solfeggio frequency.
I mean who has parents that good?
You’d hope that after thirty-odd torturous sessions I might have expunged the legacy of generations of dismal genetic luck, socioeconomic misfortune, terrible parenting, supernatural disturbances, crappy DNA, wonky brain chemistry, bad spirits, planetary misalignment and divine retribution that have made my family tree so darkly colourful.
But apparently not.
As Bill said, it is only a ride. It’s good advice for both life and tripping balls. And I’ve tripped as much as the next dude but it doesn’t seem to help once I’ve gulped and gagged down 150ml of the Amazon jungle’s finest.
I’m toast. Served up crispy and burnt for the preternaturally-nasty spine-chilling beings of my mind, or the underworld, or the afterlife, or the devil’s intestines—or wherever the hell it is that they come from—to play with me as they please.
And play with me they do. Pulling out organs, nailing me to crosses, cursing me with psychosis, and whatever other sneaky tricks they can scheme between their conniving little bastard selves. The more traumatic, the better, it seems.
But still, one day, I know I’ll drink again. I’ll suffer for countless eternal hours wondering what on earth I was thinking. And then perhaps I’ll feel fantastic afterwards and evangelically espouse the glories of the great mystical tea, until such time as those heady days wear off, and the great fear slowly creeps again.
In my humble opinion, the ‘magic’ mushroom – for that’s what it is – used in the right way, is one of the more remarkable tools for psychological wellbeing available to the human race. And yes I am well aware that to many people this statement will seem ridiculous, preposterous or even irresponsible. Indeed to some this is a radical proposition, but I would suggest it only appears like this because of the way the cultural paradigm of our time has led us to be ignorant of the value of non-ordinary states of awareness.
Allow me to explain. Ingesting psilocybin – the psychoactive compound found around the world in magic mushrooms – in the right settling, with the right people, with the right intention, offers a uniquely psychotherapeutic experience. It offers the chance to gain insight and understanding, to let go of the experience of suffering, to connect profoundly with nature, to psychologically cleanse and refresh ourselves, and to marvel at the wonderous universe we inhabit. This is not hyperbole by the way.
Of course some people in different parts of the world have known this for hundreds or even thousands of years, but it’s only now that through scientific research – currenty the only means by which anything useful can hope to be taken seriously by culture at large, institutions and policy makers – the therapeutic efficacy of the magic mushroom is starting to be demonstrated in a way that could eventually lead to a new era in treating depression and increasing wellbeing.
Thanks to a new wave of psychedelic research in recent years, the therapeutic potential of psilocybin is starting to be recognised. London based Prof. David Nutt and Robin Carhart-Harris have conducted studies that lead them to believe that psilocybin could be useful for the treatment of depression; studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have recorded an improvement in the mental wellbeing of research participants who ingested psilocybin; at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center, Los Angeles, terminally ill patients who used psilocybin as part of their psychological treatment programme reported a decrease in their fear of death and were better able to come to terms with their situation.
Psilocybin is not the only psychedelic substance that offers such therapeutic benefits, but in comparison with it’s more forthright cousin, D.M.T. (being increasingly used around the world, particularly in the form of the amazonian brew ayahuasca), it offers a much more gentle and accessible experience. Psilocybin affords many of the increasingly well documented effects of the psychedelics, with less of the anxiety and physical symptoms, and a generally less challenging experience overall. For this reason it perhaps offers the most potential for use as a tool to improve wellbeing on a larger scale.
As well as this, use of psilocybin can invoke profound mystical states of awareness and can be used as a tool for deepening spiritual practice. In combination with a regular meditation practice the use of psilocybin can assist in prolonging elevated states of mind and may reinforce mindful ways of thinking. Users of psilocybin report discovering deeper layers of themselves, and often discover that life is more meaningful than before. Great value is experienced in connecting with a state that seems more ‘real’ than that of ordinary awareness. Wisdom teachings regarding how best to live one’s life may be received, or understood more profoundly.
It sounds almost too good to be true, but recent research is starting to provide the evidence to support such claims. Even mainstream news platforms reported a recent study by Johns Hopkins University that suggested that ingesting psilocybin just once resulted in profound positive changes in personality which could still be felt a year later. Of course in cultures such as ours that do not value elevated and profound states of grace and awareness, this mode of experiencing the world and enhancing our relationship with life may not catch on anytime soon. But a new appreciation of the therapeutic value of psilocybin could plant the seed for a change in the public and political perception of the value of non-ordinary states of consciousness.
Of course the issues of personal wellbeing and mental health are complex and interconnected with wider issues that need addressing within our societies. But I know from personal experience how valuable the use of psychedelics can be, both to those who suffer as well as those who wish to thrive. The types of insights and psychological change that psilocybin and other psychedelics bestow upon the user are such that there could hardly be a more appropriate or powerful tool for initiating the changes we’d all like to see, both in ourselves and consequently in our world. It’s sad that people who choose to utilise such effective and therapeutic tools for the betterment of themselves must commit a criminal act to do so, but with time I’m hopeful that further demonstration of the benefits of such activity will see a change in our attitudes towards it.