The following is an account of two separate experiments with LSD, both privately done, within the span of three weeks. They were my first attempts at psychedelic exploration on my own.
The experiences ranged from feelings of ecstasy and divinity, to horror and detachment.
My Naked Experiments With LSD: The Yin
Empty apartment in New York City, healthy breakfast of eggs and avocados, and I was ready to drop the tab of acid, only after taking a pill of 5-htp.
After about a half an hour, I laid on my brother’s couch to listen to some soft electronica. It was his apartment, and everyone but I had left to go to work. My work was about to kick, the work on my psyche. The music was soothing, but it wasn’t what I was looking for, so after another half hour, I forced myself up and walked around a bit.
The apartment had taken on a new life and I was experiencing all of it. I found a long full-length mirror on the wall, and I decided to inspect myself. I had heard many stories of people seeing aged versions of themselves when they looked in mirrors whilst on a psychedelic but it had never happened to me. I guess that is a good thing. But as I started to look at myself I decided that if I was going to examine my face, then I would have to examine my entire body, for what is the face but only a small feature on the vast expanse that is my physical being.
I disrobed, fully. Even underwear would hinder my complete understanding of what I feel about my body. Growing up as an American citizen, or rather a member of the western advertising-infested culture, I knew I harbored some resentment towards my physical self and it manifested itself as I realized how tense my body actually was when looking at myself naked. I relaxed my stomach muscles, my shoulders, and I looked on, scanning up and down the body and at times focusing on my genitals.
Almost instantly, upon staring at my penis, I understood (a thought appeared that presented itself as so obvious that it was silly I had not thought it before) that I had demonized my own sexuality for far too long. I had unconsciously considered my desires as impure, as something that would block my spirituality, something that should only be discussed in hushed voices. It isn’t hard to see why I had these unconscious guilt surrounding sex. As a child, I was told to cover my eyes when a couple kissed on the television screen. We just weren’t supposed to see these things, and if a child can’t process them, how can an adult, spawned from that child, process the idea of sexuality?
An image of two unicorns, both cartoonish, one male, one female, wrestling and playing around on a cartoon rainbow popped into my head. I was “told” that I needed to treat sexuality as play, as innocent and natural as wrestling unicorns on a rainbow. Even my animalistic desires or passions should be regarded as beautiful, not dirty.
With a laissez-faire attitude towards my sexuality, during that day, whenever I’d feel the urge to touch myself, I let myself do it. Realizing that it was okay and not dirty to touch myself, I lost the urge to masturbate. No longer was there a suppressed guilty desire that I wouldn’t allow myself to face until I had to find some release through momentary ejaculation. It felt like I was getting a grip on my sexuality. Later on, I fantasized about beautiful women, incredibly vivid visuals of them due to the LSD, and it engaged me sexually, but I kept reminding myself to treat it as innocent, because that’s what it was.
My hunger was staved off with a very healthy, and normally unsubstantial, meal of Persian salted pistachios and carrot juice. Both belonged to my brother’s roommate, and I found no appetite to eat anything else. The two foods seemed to completely satisfy any need my body had. Not only was the meal delicious, I was caught in awe of the beauty of the pistachios. Their colors mesmerized me. The starry-night blue, the royal purple, the budding flower green, and the passionate orange, all lured me in, and I was examining the little nuts the same way a scientist examines a specimen. I had never paid much attention to pistachios before but now it seemed as though an event of cosmic significance was transpiring before my eyes. Inside of my hands, a stunning visual array, that was similar to the formations of galaxies and the deaths of stars, was unfolding.
Within seconds of noticing the cosmic beauty, the image that was forming on the pistachio changed to one of a bleeding heart. The same colors, the same texture, and yet now I could see the organic human heart beating inside of my hand. I laughed with delight that within this tiny, delicious, nut package I was able to contemplate everything from the cosmos to human anatomy.
After some time, I decided that I needed to meditate, so I went about setting up a nice pillow and blanket to wrap myself in and I set the timer on my phone to thirty minutes.
That’s when the mayhem began.
I use the term mayhem lightly of course, but with the feeling and understanding of time becoming meaningless, I experienced hours of beauty and inspiration that measured out to be simply minutes in clock time. It was as though every time I would close my eyes and focus my attention on my breath, I would dive deep into a psychological underwater realm where answers were given to all of my deepest questions without any hesitation. The experiences I had could not be explained in terms of logical thought, because it was more than that. These were the “awe inspiring” epiphanies that one feels to be true, in the core and throughout the body.
First order of business to be addressed, the pain I was experiencing from my recent discussion with my ex- girlfriend. For some time, I had been researching on the therapeutic effects of MDMA on anything from PTSD to couple’s therapy. My ex and I had remained in contact since our break –up and recently, our talks had become more frequent and heartfelt. I wanted to see if MDMA would be able to more effectively open up communication between the two of us, allow us to share something that was holding ourselves back from self-actualization. Maybe I needed more closure. When I broached the subject to her, she had agreed to take some MDMA with me, only, as I was later to find out, she didn’t specify when.
The night before my acid trip, I was finally able to obtain some and I messaged her, to be quickly disappointed when she informed me that she said she was interested in trying the drug, but not at that time. I sadly accepted this fact and tried to move on but it still bothered me.
While sitting in meditation, a picture of her flashed before my eyes, and next to the picture, a picture of a beautiful yellow flower. Both were glowing with radiance and as I stared, I noticed the flower started to blossom and open up. As it did, the picture of my ex did the same. I was in awe of the beauty of the pair and I immediately intuited that I was attempting to force or push something that was as natural as a flower blossoming. My attempt at pushing through a “meaningful conversation” was the same as an attempt to speed up the growth of a flower. It was impossible. Love, like the one we shared, was to be watered and treated with patience, not force. I knew what I had to do, or what I had to stop doing, when this was all over.
Next, I witnessed the image of a white light, so powerful and so all encompassing that it reminded me of the image people say they have when they are near death and see the “light”. The light had a feminine essence to it, and it was a motherly figure. I understood it to be the “divine mother” and it revealed much to me. It felt like a Q & A session with a being of highly evolved intelligence.
With her guidance, I understood that every single thought of ours, especially the unconscious, recurring ones, creates the reality that we experience, and that any latent thoughts of ugliness, insecurity or emasculation, which were just unconscious habit patterns of the mind, were feeding my reality. Every time I believed those thoughts, consciously or unconsciously, I was giving merit to those realities in which I was ugly, insecure and lacking in my masculinity. We have to choose what our realities are and for so many we diminish the great light that was given to us.
As the half an hour, or at least what seemed to the week long excursion, of meditation finished, I noticed music coming from some other floor, and possibly from some other building. It was a simple melody and harmony with not many instruments but as I listened, I felt the music. I was able to visualize the harmony of all of the parts of the music flowing together. I felt the music, possibly for the first time in my life. I had spent so much time trying to think about music when I just needed to open up my heart and let the songs flow in. Visual art taught me the same lesson. I stared at a painting on the tv screen and it made me want to dance.
I ended my trip with light laughter and the wonder and silliness of life while still naked in my brother’s empty apartment. As the effects of the LSD finally wore off, I was on a subway train headed to the meet and greet session of the Horizons NYC psychedelic conference.
My Naked Experiments With LSD: The Yang
Two and a half weeks later, I, again alone, dropped another tab of acid. This time I had the sanctity of my own childhood home to explore in. I had several intentions for this experience, the most pertinent being, ”What is my greatest fear?”
Going into any psychedelic trip with the intention of understanding your darker nature is bound to bring up uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous, thoughts and images. The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide warns those who wish to guide others’ psychedelic experiences of people with such dark intentions, expressing the possibility that those people may get stuck in those darker areas.
With the confidence that meditation will be able to solve any mental ill that I may encounter, I took the tab of acid, turned on music, put on blinders, took off all of my clothes, got into my bed and proceeded to enter into my subconscious. My music of choice for the afternoon was Phillip Glass, whom I had encountered many times throughout my life, but only became aware of him as a composer just the day before, while searching for appropriate “tripping” music.
The profundity of Glass’ music moved me so much that I contemplated my death and the effect that it would have on my loved ones. I seemed to be more disturbed by the idea that my family would have to grieve my loss than I would be disappointed at losing my own life. Am I really not scared to die? Most likely the answer is I am scared to die and I am not acknowledging it, but at that moment, I cried more at the idea of what my father would have to experience if he came home that day to see his son, dead. I cried endlessly at the meaninglessness of life, at the impermanent nature of all that we attach our minds, souls, and hearts to.
After being fed up with the emotional turbulence caused by Glass’ music and then my stomach was fed up with the strawberries I munched on after my short break from the music, I returned to my room and picked up the assembled pile of photos and my high school yearbook. The photos were a collection of images from my childhood, pictures with family and without, which I had put together just before the effects of the LSD started to kick in. This idea came from the short, but moving, book The Secret Chief Revealed.
I do have to note that not once, up to this point in the trip or after, did I experience the mind-body understanding that I felt the prior trip. It all felt as though I was stuck in my head, and out of my body, out of touch with my surroundings. This was quite off-putting, and amongst other factors, probably led to my less than positive experience.
The pictures moved me and pushed me to start appreciating all the work that my family had put in to make me the man I am. I felt great love and admiration towards my brother, 8 years my elder, who, for much of my life, had been a parental and masculine role model for me. I did not thank him enough. As for the whole family, I contemplated the beauty and harmony of my “tribe” of people, and simultaneously, I cried at the idea that one day this family would just be another that existed as a memory, gathering dust, on the shelf of history.
Appreciation for others aside, I also started to realize my younger self’s beauty through the years. One memory that has long been ingrained in my head is the day when I could not have been older than ten, I stared into my sister’s full-length mirror and I kept repeating to myself that I was “so ugly”. I bring up this memory, not as a plea for pity or sympathy, but as an astonishing fact of the incredible strength that the world had on the perception of beauty and self-love of a small boy. At the age of ten, I was sure that I had been stricken with a case of the most horrendous ugliness.
Upon addressing this fact, I gazed into pictures of myself from high school and younger, and I whispered, “you’re so beautiful”, over and over, as though the picture needed convincing. As I did this, the pictures themselves morphed, not literally, but my perception changed, until I could see how naturally beautiful I actually was. I cried, tears of happiness and love flowed freely.
Two stages of the trip that I had wanted to address were now finished; the pictures and the eyes-closed session of listening to music. Now, it was on to the final portion; the meditation.
I set the timer for one hour, but I ended up sitting for close to two. The meditation was not an enjoyable experience. As I mentioned earlier, there was no body- mind connection, it was all in my head, and I felt as though I was losing my touch with reality. As detachment increased, I was motivated to gain greater presence and consciousness over my physicality. Nothing I did seemed to bring me closer to my body, and this upset me.
I asked the tough question, “What is my greatest fear?” and I was answered. Images of death, gruesome murder and worse popped into my head, and I tried to relax into them but I was almost convinced that I was a killer. The image of a hefty masked killer, donning leather aprons and masks, standing in a dungeon flashed in my mind, and it greatly worried me that were I to remove that mask, I would find myself, staring back at me. It would take days before I would be able to integrate the idea into a healthy self-image. You may be asking yourself, “How does one incorporate a latent serial killer persona into a healthy self image?” and I will address that in the next section.
Building on that idea, an elaborate visual sprouted in my mind’s eye and it was a massive, moving representation of imperialism, or fascism, or whatever you may call a violent attempt to take over the world. At the top of the image was the head of Wile. E. Coyote, the Looney Tunes character, donning a general’s hat and black aviator sunglasses. The red background and the rising, expanding image, formed by individual rotating pieces of silver, that seemed to resemble weapons, and formed a pyramid as it grew, seemed to insinuate it was the symbol for dictatorial growth. As I stared in awe at this new image, I contemplated the idea of dictatorship and tyranny. I understood that had I, or anyone, had the power to become a dictator or tyrant, I would behave just as the animals, the Hitlers, the Husseins, the Stalins, that we all judge to be inhuman, would. It made me mad, and it made me scared.
I spent the remainder of the trip, sitting in quiet meditation, with a mind agitated beyond the meditative state. I could not calm down my thoughts, nor could I suppress or relax into the images and thoughts I was experiencing. I felt foggy and disassociated and I had trouble staying present. I was disturbed and worried that I may be a killer and have hateful thoughts towards all humanity.
Over the following days, I was able to calm my agitation and integrate the lessons I had to learn from the experience. In some respects, I may have learned more from this second, darker experience, than from the first, lighter one.
Final Thoughts: Yin-Yang.
The first experience was, unquestionably, positive. The over-all light nature of the entire trip, the feelings of connection and good will, the clear lessons that were demonstrated, dictating specific actions to take to create a more quality life, all contributed to the experience.
The latter experience may be seen as negative, but, as expressed before, by integrating the lessons I had learned from it, it made me more “whole”. It forced me to face the darker aspects of my being, see that all the hate and negativity that occur in this world and in my life is a part of me, just the same as the love that I find is a part of me.
As we play this game of life and death, we are faced with this ultimate position of the light and the dark. There cannot be one without the other. Light must have dark in order to be understood. Thus, if we want to understand our lighter aspects, then we must confront the dark aspects of our beings, so that we may be able to fully integrate the entire experience of life, and not just suppress what we consider “evil”. Alan Watts explains that those who achieve self-realization are considered holy, because they have become more “whole”, by understanding their light and dark nature. The lesson to be learned from the images of death and the idea of tyranny that I experienced is that we must understand the darker aspects of our beings, not opt for deluded thinking of positivity.
With the understanding that “evil” may arise inside each of us, and not just an unlucky few, our attitude towards it starts to change. Our sympathy towards those we see as the dark one starts to change. We start to feel sympathy and we start to try to understand, instead of suppress or even over identify with it.
Suppression of anything leads to an unhealthy balance, and I am a perfect example of that. I attempted to suppress my sexuality and I had (and potentially still have) a feeling of guilt and dirtiness surrounding something so innocent and beautiful as sex. I attempted to suppress my masculinity and my darker emotional side, and I ended up realizing unconscious thoughts of death and tyranny. What’s ironic is, that for so long, I believed myself to be very self-aware. How many of us are guilty of this fallacy?
The experience of the “negative” trip also provided me motivation to deepen my meditation practices. As the thoughts popped into my head, it became a signal for me to become more conscious of myself, my mind and body, and to stop leading a life of unconscious habits.
So, when we start to question which experience was the positive one, and which was the negative, the question fades away when we instead focus on the question of how useful each trip was.
In that sense, both were positive.
A Final Note on Safety
As we repeatedly stress on HighExistence, psychedelics must be approached with reverence and caution. We believe that in a loving context, psychedelics are powerful medicines with tremendous potential, but there are a number of physical and psychological safety concerns that one should consider before journeying with psychedelics. Please, please do plenty of research, and do not take psychedelics if you have reason to believe that they will not jibe with your personality or particular mental baggage. The Essential Psychedelic Guide on Erowid is an exceptional free resource, and we recommend reading it, especially the section on ‘Psychedelic Safety,’ before ever dabbling in these substances. It’s also imperative that you buy a test kit if you aren’t absolutely certain that the substances you’ve procured are what you believe them to be. Take care, and happy tripping. : )