‘From here on, love was the only consideration…it was and is the only purpose. Love seemed to emanate from a single point of light…and it vibrated. I could feel my physical body trying to vibrate in unity with the cosmos…and frustratingly, I felt like a guy who couldn’t dance. But the universe accepted it. The sheer joy…the bliss…the nirvana..was undescribable. And in fact there are no words to accurately capture my experience…my state…this place. I know I’ve had no earthly pleasure that’s ever come close to this feeling…No sensation, no image of beauty, nothing during my time on earth has felt as pure and joyful and glorious as the height of this journey… an orgasm of the soul. ‘
‘Patrick’ had enrolled in New York University’s study to see if one dose of psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) could alleviate his anxiety, depression and fear of dying. He was terminally ill with cancer. That one dose transformed everything. As he describes above, he realized he was more than this body, more than this life. He lost all fear and anger. And the effects didn’t wear off. Several months later, actively dying, he said he felt the happiest in his life – ‘I am the luckiest man on earth.’ He said he loved his wife more than ever before, meditated regularly and was better able to live in the present.
In Michael Pollan’s book How To Change Your Mind: What the new science of psychedelics Teachs Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence, he examines how a group of people he calls psychonauts are undergoing transcendental experiences that transform their lives after taking a single dose of psilocybin under medically controlled conditions. He explains that when the brain operates under the influence of psilocybin thousands of new connections form, linking far flung brain regions that during normal waking consciousness don’t exchange much information.’ According to Pollan, the word that best describes these controlled psilocybin journeys is ‘awe’.
Here’s another account from Pollan’s book. ‘Alice’ joined a psilocybin trial to cure her lifelong addiction to smoking. After she took the drug, she describes how she grew feathers that allowed her to travel back to previous lives. She saw herself die three times; watched her ‘soul move from her body to a funeral pyre floating on the Ganges’ and found herself ‘standing on the edge of the universe, witnessing the dawn of creation.’ She had the humbling realization that ‘everything in the universe is of equal importance, including yourself. .. [and] the universe was so great and there were so many things you could do and see in it that killing yourself seemed like a dumb idea. It put smoking in a whole new context. Smoking seemed very unimportant; it seemed kind of stupid, to be honest.’
Alice also discovered that, ‘the most important thing of all is the breath. When that stops, you’re dead.’ She emerged from her journey with the conviction that ‘you should cherish your breath.” She has not had a cigarette since her psilocybin journey. Whenever she feels a craving, she goes back in memory to her session ‘I think of all the wonderful things I experienced, and how it felt to be on that much higher plane.’
Michael Pollan and several scientists believe you can have this transcendental experience without drugs. I did. In the next few posts, I’ll tell you how.