Zigzagging an empty room. Tracing low ceilings with fingertips, confirming ease of reach. The man before me palmed a lightbulb as we glided through. “Tu pasaporte.” Stamp. “Gracias.” Arrived. Her surprise. Hugs and cries. Then out. That same burnt smell. Quiet arteries of a city, meeting at congested joints. The whites of his eyes stared at me, paced, as I ordered my morning coffee. Three aproned women stood up to shoo him away. “He said you’re beautiful because of your blue eyes and I am not.” A foreigner again. Hidden sugar. Expanding bodies. “He asked me if I was gay… Apparently being over 30 and skinny in Mexico means you’re either gay, or… not living, not married…” Inhalations that choke. Blue toilet water. Fabuloso and Glade plugins. Hives across my neck. He accidentally ran over her foot outside the Casa Azul. Quite a lot of stuff for a communist. Heavy Suburban doors. ¿Bulletproof, por que? I never close it tight enough. A smiling man with long hair in a VW van—full of dogs. Coyoacán. “I went to school there for a year, then they kicked me out.” Down the street from Cortes’s mansion, and La Malinche’s. They must have been fucking. Shivers at the oldest church in Mexico. I touched its wall. I don’t know why. Mezcal. 80s MTV, a cantina where grown men sleep. Huitlacoche, escamoles, caldo de res, elotes, tacos. Up a 1930s elevator, through a hall of agave and aloe, onto a rooftop terrace, an orange sky + mountain view. Some beers, some cocaine. Good people, good conversation. She’s escaping European lockdown. Lived in Berlin her whole life, but still, says they can sniff out her difference. Her high cheekbones, the in-tact femininity. A further East scent. “All the women in my family; PhDs in leather mini skirts.” Then into the tiny penthouse. Full of herbs and handmade clothes and trinkets, two busts, from a friend who passed, towers of books, an AR-15 in the bathroom, or was it an M16?, toothbrushes in an I ❤ BERLIN mug, frames collected from all over the place, without intention, recklessly/beautifully. In a small circle, calm. Everything we need for now. I shared a leather chair with her as she trimmed her herbs. We spoke about lineage, sexuality, past knowledge, pain, the chaos of the modern world. What led to this. “Eventually, a future generation is just going to go absolutely bonkers again, orgies and everything.” “The kids today aren’t even fucking—-maybe their kids then.” “It’s going to be a fiasco.” I’ll be back in a few weeks.
How do hormones impact psychedelic interaction and effect?
Folk or pharma? How did we reach this question ($, Malleus Maleficarum?)? The answer could be both folk and pharma, but which should supplement the other?
Is it ‘bad’ if more Americans* aspire to be pharmaceutical-free? What—if anything—might this imply about changing attitudes towards pharmaceutical companies and current healthcare options? How might this shape the future of drug use? And what might this say about people who need a daily Rx to survive? Are there observable rifts (in privilege, power, well-being, whatever) between the medicated (prescribed by a doctor) and the self-medicated (exploring alternatives—be them off-label Rx use, unregulated supplements, or psychedelics)?
*~46% of Americans have used one or more prescription drug in the last 30 days (as of May 2019).
It started with a collective itch, absorbing unseen elements. We left and met here. Hopeful the unknown would be better than this. Still craving, switching spaces. The united states of bodies on the ground. Just human. Sure, we can migrate to a new state. We can evolve. But what’s next? Awareness morphing into control. A meditative/medicated existence, far removed from the jolts of the past. Blacking out the rising sun. Muting emotions. Tucking fear into a belt. Veins popping out. A splitting people. They say it doesn’t affect them, but children will singe. Blur this dirty scene, a failed humanity. Closed eyes see reality. Who cares if we can zone out? Focus on the breath. Unthinkable for many. Those who cannot escape. Those before us. Circling around fire. Making sense of sounds. They couldn’t afford to shut it all off. There is no switch.
Our brains are tuned for novelty. And for good reason. It’s adaptive to be responsive to new things in the environment. Changes, threats in the environment. We’re tuned to disregard the familiar or take it for granted, which is indeed what most of us do. One of the things that happens on psychedelics and on cannabis is that the familiar suddenly takes on greater weight. And there’s an appreciation of the familiar. I think a lot of familiar things are profound if looked at in the proper way. The feelings of love I have for people in my family are profound, but I don’t always feel that profundity. Psychedelics change that balance… The line between profundity and banality is a lot finer than we think.”
Which is more ethical or “fair-trade” ~ taking drugs from the Earth or from a lab?
Cosmic Travel in 20 Minutes
Originally featured in Michael Pollan’s ‘Trips Worth Telling’ series
Just one inhale sent me falling backward into my pillow. A phantom in my mirror sat up from my body, then walked away. My eyelids shut, and I shot into space. Flying through vibrant tunnels of geometric patterns and down paths not unlike Mario Kart 64’s Rainbow Road, I eventually landed on “the other side.” Everything was white and black, simultaneously. I seemed to be standing on firm ground in the clouds, with the agency to navigate. I was in the void. There was no distinction between high and low or here and there. Though I’m not religious, Ganesha — Hindu god of beginnings and “remover of obstacles” — appeared. The elephant figure pulsated in the center of my vision as several arms swayed up and down. I was awestruck, eager to explore. I turned and faced a large audience, a sea of young Asian boys. (Don’t ask why. I know it’s specific.) They were all giving me a thumbs-up, cheering me on. Smiling eyes roared in unison: “Keep doing what you’re doing, Erica. You’re doing the right thing.”
At this point, my roommate opened the door, and the visions evaporated. I told her, “I’m on DMT. Please shut the door.” The room returned to silence. The walls seemed to be morphing and dripping with sheen paint. Then, just as suddenly as I’d blasted off, I made a gentle landing back to sober consciousness. I checked the clock. Only 20 minutes had passed. I remember thinking, “That’s it?” But now, several years later, the psychological benefits of that experience continue to crystalize.
That was it. Just one bong rip of DMT — also known as N,N-dimethyltryptamine, a molecule found nearly everywhere in nature and a powerful hallucinogenic — sent me out of this world. I had no idea it would also send me the precise message I needed to hear as a 20-year-old trying to figure out my life.
Like many young people, I went through a period of feeling uncertain about everything. What to do, how to be. I was depressed, skipping class, avoiding responsibilities. (Smoking pot all day didn’t quite ease the existential anxiety.) To escape this inherent developmental discomfort, I used all sorts of substances: alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, sketchy pressed pills, various pharmaceuticals. But psychedelics were always different. Rather than a diversion from reality, they provided a meaningful and direct confrontation with my inner self and this outer space we find ourselves tucked into.
On larger doses of LSD, I’ve seen divine feminine figures in kaleidoscopic vision. All women in one woman, or me. Yoni, apparently. On psilocybin (four grams, a doozy), I once forgot everything about the world, including myself. Even my name. Rediscovering everything as I returned from the fog renewed my appreciation and awe of existence. When you forget that music exists and hear a song for what feels like the first time, even T-Pain on WiLD 94.9 can bring tears to your eyes. On ketamine, the most mundane information transforms into divine comedy. And on MDMA, I’ve connected more deeply with people I love. Once I even saw green energy sparks coming out of my hands after rubbing them together. I was able to see the unseeable.
Each of these seemingly sacred experiences has brought me closer to what feels like my most “authentic self.” And while the psychedelic experience has historically been written from a male perspective, with an emphasis on ego loss as the big shebang, that recurrent theme has been a bit less profound for me and other women I’ve spoken to about psychedelic visions. Maybe ego loss is less focal to the female psychedelic experience because we’re primary caregivers biologically. Maybe it’s neurochemically and socially easier for us to “lose ourselves” in flow states of caregiving, such that becoming aware of a lack of boundaries between ourselves and the world may be a bit less mind-blowing. Instead, reaching an inner state of pure self-compassion, giving my ego a damn hug for once, and being reintroduced to myself sans judgment has been paramount. Some space to say: It’s okay. You’re okay.
Reflecting on all the substances I’ve taken, DMT stands above and beyond the rest. DMT delivered the words of encouragement I desperately needed as a young woman to “find my way.” Not a degree. Not a boyfriend. Not a grade on a paper. Not a like on Instagram. I needed to know within the deepest part of myself that I was okay; I was enough. A very basic human need that comes more naturally to some than others.
That brief message brought me back home within myself. And over time, it made it easier to ignore self-doubt and distractions from my truest goals, dreams, and desires. The things that make me talk too fast. The things that make me write. The things that make me feel full: love and learning. The things in this world that need some editing and rewriting.
People familiar with DMT will often ask, “Did you break through?” And I did. After cosmic travel — whether in a spacecraft or within your own mind — your perspective is bound to shift. Anxiety lifts. Everyday trials and tribulations seem more petty than before. Spiraling thoughts of self-doubt become irrelevant, because, according to the laws of universe, it’s going to be okay. Really, you’re doing just fine. For anyone who grew up programmed to think otherwise — that they’re not good enough, that they should conform like this or dress like that, that they deserve less — a psychedelic experience can help send those negative thoughts out of orbit. DMT politely called bullshit on all that disorienting psychosocial conditioning that surrounded me as a young woman, and then said: Keep going.