Mist

You struggled to park an invisible car on Fillmore because your piercing was stuck to a fire hydrant. Stuck like the rest of us. Under another spell of moral authority. Believing real emotions drawn from deceptive acts. A medium slips voodoo bags in all the right places. A spiritual advisor advises a touch. A guru reaches too far. The priest hides it all. Power seeks vulnerability, speaking in silence. Those who can’t afford buy lotto tickets. Talking to God, never hearing back. Hoping and hopeless for another chance. Anything to divert attention and responsibility from this current mess. Enters the magician. Playing with projection to manipulate. To create a feeling of awe, allure, amazement. Shock value. And we love to feel, even fear. The heightened pulses and rising temperatures. Cranking up fields. Just the way the man behind the curtain likes it: wrapped in a mist of confusion. Divine delirium quiets. Shh, don’t question it. No reason to reason with fog. But what really happened? Pure deception and perception. Hinging until it breaks and you see the truth underneath the pain, the shame, the neglect, the harm. A universal craving for psychological attention. Falling into traps and release.

An ode to assholes

I was 14. A freshman. In the backseat. The car full of older boys. Three juniors, one sophomore. It was a four-seater Ford Explorer. My spot in the middle had no belt. We were drinking and smoking. They had these mini Coors and a massive blunt was being passed around. Immortal Technique was blasting. Point of No Return. Of course he had a sub in the back. I always wanted to complain about the volume and drifting tires, but I never did. Every cell was screaming: this is not good. I wanted to speak, but the words just never came out. I didn’t want to be that girl. I felt silenced. We were going 75 down a curvy 15. I forget the name of the road. Scotts? Smith? Something with an S. They used to bomb it all the time. On a skateboard, in a car. It connected Kennedy and Shannon in Los Gatos. Fuck, I forget. But I remember the rest. They were all screaming, “scare the shit out of her!” I guess they all wanted to scare me? I don’t know, but next thing we were drifting towards a fence. And a tree. Time stopped between the bumps in the music and I couldn’t hear a thing. I flew over Matt and my head broke through the side window. My vision dripped red like Game Over in GoldenEye 007. I put my hand to my head and it was wet. Blood kept flowing. My ex and I left the scene and went to the Burger King public restroom to wipe up my bloody face before getting me home. We pulled up outside my house. I didn’t want to tell my parents what happened but wanted someone to check my head. So I lifted my hoodie up, walked up the driveway, put on an I’m-not-blitzed face as I opened the front door, and went straight to the bathroom I shared with my brothers. Turned on the shower, soaked my hair, knocked over a bottle of shampoo, faked a loud gasp. After that pathetic little charade, I went to my mom to show her the gash. The words spilled out. Shaking and inaudible. I fell in the shower and hurt myself, it bled a lot. Do I need stitches? She said it looked like a clean cut. Phew. I disappeared back into my room. Parted my hair and took a picture with my flip phone. Uploaded the photo of my skull to Myspace with the caption “Fuck.” Willy, the driver, years later, said that post made his heart stop. That accident made my heart stop. Still does to this day anytime I’m in the backseat of a car with an aggressive (always been male) driver. It’s not speed that scares me, but speed accompanied with stupidity. Cutting people off. Whipping the passengers around like rag dolls. Riding too close. Constantly slamming on the breaks. Jerking the wheel back and forth. Trying to pass without visibility. Happens more than I’d like it to, riding in cars with strangers who quickly reveal themselves. The occasional cabbie, some random friend of a friend. It happened just yesterday. On the way back from Jardín to Medellín. Sam’s cousin was driving. His wife always takes a pill before the ride apparently, to sleep through it. They both prayed before we left. That gesture. The father, the son, and the holy ghost. And as soon as the car was in drive, I was his subject again. To his sheer violence. Personified anger. He must have cut off 40 cars ahead of us. Going three times the speed limit. Weaving in and out of cars on a winding two-lane road through the mountains. Speeding into oncoming traffic. Right before a blind turn. Brake fast, lash forward. Apparently this is normal here and no one really questions it, not even after an ambulance comes to take them away. The ones in the back who couldn’t say no. Again, I didn’t have a seatbelt, because he had them tucked behind into the trunk. One arm stretched straight to the seat ahead of me and the other gripping hard on the grab handle. My heart was racing. I’ve never felt more uncomfortable, unsafe. I’ve never been in a car with such an asshole, of all the assholes. His ego, his issues, held above the well-being of others. I wanted to ask him why. “Why do you drive like this?” “What’s wrong?” “Are you okay?” How could he do this? But I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t question his disrespect, his disregard, his way. Silenced again. Powerless and paralyzed. My own safety beyond my control, my consent. In the hands of a madman. It felt like abuse. All I could do was cry. So I started sobbing uncontrollably while looking out the window. Why was I in that car? Why didn’t we get the bus back or drive separate? Sam asked him to slow down, and said I was feeling unwell. He couldn’t question him either. Afraid of the snap. The car was silent other than his 80s playlist. Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper, Toto, Alan Parsons Project. But my discomfort brought even more awkwardness to the car. I felt guilty, like I was the problem. What was worse: my reaction or the reality? I couldn’t bear to face him. I wanted to vanish. What was I going to say when I said goodbye? Thanks for the ride? Sorry for being so scared, it’s just I… I felt like I should be the one to say sorry. To apologize for my fear. For bringing it up. Luckily we hit traffic. He was forced to stay in his lane, so I was finally able to calm down a bit. To enjoy the scenery. Lush, green, but with the window down, still smelled like gasoline. I kept wondering. Why? Why’d he put us through that? Does he always do this? And to who else? Why didn’t he feel remorse? Why didn’t his wife care? Why didn’t he say sorry? All for what? Because he liked it? Because his brain’s already scattered into a million pieces? Just because? No. Not again. I wiped my cheeks, relieved to be that girl. I wasn’t sorry. I was right. Maybe I’d just tell him to take care. Because he needs to. To fulfill the upheld expectation of appreciation for the ride, I ended up just saying thanks, bye in a blur. He’ll never know the way he made me feel.

Cosmic Travel in 20 Minutes

Originally featured in Michael Pollan’s ‘Trips Worth Telling’ series
Screen Shot 2018-10-02 at 12.03.44 PM
www.magictheatrestudio.com

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.

I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but that single experience gave me the reassurance I needed to simply be as I am. To stop trying to embody a personality or mimic a state alien to myself. To stop worrying about what others are thinking and feeling at all times. This is not a story of ego loss, but a story of ego restructuringA moment of solitude that allowed my mind to better prioritize what matters and what doesn’t. What deserves attention. Especially for women, who may exhaust too much mental energy outside of themselves, constantly thinking about how others are feeling, thinking, and perceiving, this return inward can be especially therapeutic.

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.

Mountains melt

The delicately fantastic iconography of the fourteenth century, where castles are toppled like dice, where the Beast is always the traditional dragon held at bay by the Virgin, in short where the order of God and its imminent victory are always apparent, gives way to to a vision of the world where all wisdom is annihilated. This is the great witches’ Sabbath of nature: mountains melt and become plains, the earth vomits up the dead and bones tumble out of tombs; the stars fall, the earth catches fire, all life withers and comes to death. The end has no value as passage and promise; it is the advent of a night in which the old world’s reason is engulfed.”

-Michel Foucault
Madness and Civilization:
A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason

Unreasonable

Reason is unquestionably a fine thing, but reason is no more than reason, and gives fulfillment only to man’s reasoning capacity, while desires are a manifestation of the whole of life — I mean the whole of human life, both with its reason and with all its itches and scratches. And though our life in these manifestations will often turn out a pretty sorry mess, it is still life and not a mere extraction of square roots. After all, I quite naturally want to live in order to fulfill my whole capacity for living, and not in order to fulfill my reasoning capacity alone, which is no more than some one-twentieth of my capacity for living. What does reason know? It knows only what it has managed to learn, while human nature acts as a complete entity, with all that is in it, consciously or unconsciously; and though it may be wrong, it’s nevertheless alive.”

 

– Fyodor Dostoevsky
Notes from Underground