By the 21st century, my tripping had become sparse (every few years) and uneventful. I chalk this up to terrible timing. As my 20s progressed and turned into my 30s, the only time the opportunity arose was in a … bacchanalian milieu. I’d be a few hours into a booze party, when an unknown voice would ask if I wanted any mushrooms. I’d ask if I could have/purchase some for later. They’d tell me no. I’d decide that I couldn’t let an opportunity like this pass … and gobble some down. Once, in ’05, after midnight and with a belly-fulla whiskey, a similar scenario played out – but I just wound up barfing them up once I got home. Nothing rewarding or worthwhile about any of that.
I still held a romantic, if somewhat distant, relationship to psychedelics. I hadn’t written off the idea of taking them, but I didn’t see how or when that might happen. The friends of friends I knew who tripped were pretty haphazard partypeople in their early 20s. I knew that if I were to take them again, it would not be in so careless or slapdash (or ‘spontaneous’) a manner. But where would that discipline come from? I certainly wasn’t cultivating it on any level, other than the common ‘growing up’ that comes with anybody’s passing years. While I didn’t feel I had outgrown psychedelics (a not uncommon view among my peers, at the time), it looked increasingly unlikely, as time passed, that I would engage with them any more.
The summer of ’07, I read an article in a music magazine, a 40-years-since-“Sgt.-Pepper” write-up. Not having listened to the whole thing in a while, I decided to dust off my old record I bought in middle school and give it a spin and read-along with all the lyrics. What stood out for me was “Within You, Without You.” It felt like the centerpiece of the album. Long story short, it lit a fire under my ass to develop a spiritual practice. As I studied, practiced, and shared with other people ‘on a path’, this interesting thing started to happen. The things I was studying, would every once in a while be illustrate-able by a psychedelic memory. Something I had seen or felt when tripping, back in my late teens, that I had merely noticed back then, would either ground my knowledge of a spiritual concept, or would be reflected in the lore of a certain tradition.
Essentially, I developed a heart-based communion with the universe*. Sure, I was merely dipping my toes in the deep pools of various disciplines; but they were all very rewarding. My sitting meditation, contemplation, mantra, kirtan, and service semi-practices amalgamated into a workable sadhana for the contemporary urban jedi.
Within a year or two, I felt I was ready to re-approach psychedelics. Just like the first time around, locating them was not as easy as I’d imagined. However, this time I was much more open to things like synchronicity and rightful timing. Acid found me within a year. In my past, I hadn’t picked up less that a quarter-sheet when ‘stocking up’ so this 10-strip scene was new to me. And liquid was a bit much to wrap my head around. A few months later, having either read or reread my ‘proper texts,’ it was time for me to venture forth. On one tab. Had to guinea-pig it, right? I over-prepared, but that was fine. Everything went very, very well. I sat in meditation on top of a local hill, had sound recordings I’d made specifically for this (which I never even got around to playing), caught up with a friend who happened to be bicycling by, and rode with him to a party with another friend in another part of town. An old tripping-buddy even called me from the other side of the country on my cell phone. Three relationships deepened. I’d lived out a long-held ideal/fantasy – a prolonged sitting meditation while tripping. I’d done some impressive journaling. It was very satisfying and I was most pleased.
Over the next couple years, I slowly crawled back into the hyperspatial driver’s seat. Whether summer-camping at an outdoor acid-rock concert or meditating in local parks, I gradually approached the doses I’m really curious to return to. The more I read (especially in the field of psychedelic research), it seemed a lot of people seemed to ground their ecstatic psychedelic trips with daily meditation practices. To be honest, I’m not sure which practice deepened which, more. LSD benefited my meditation, meditation benefited my acid trips. A daily sitting practice also allowed for an elongated integration – or rather, a series of integrations, revisits and rememberings. Instead of just one talk with a friend, or one bout of journaling (or however else I was used to integrating before), a daily check-in/meditation-sit was a way to examine and re-examine – as many times as needed – all of the information & experience of my trip. The language of sitting also gave me better vocabulary to describe things which I previously would have categorized as ‘ineffable.’ I planned a couple trips solely around an exteneded (more than my daily 20-minute) sit. Sometimes, I meditated in preparation for a trip; other times, in the middle of a trip, if it felt like the right thing to do.
A meditation practice is a multi-use tool. In a psychedelicist’s arsenal, it can ground us, launch us, illustrate truths or render illusion transparent. While it certainly is in no way required, neither have I ever heard of a sitting practice inhibiting or otherwise being obstructive to a psychedelic practice.
Practice being the operative word.
* As opposed to a mind-based communion with the universe. As a turned-on teen, I felt that psychedelics confirmed my notion that reality/the universe was mind-generated,that mind was the ultimate kernel from which all human experience grew. Change your mind and you change your/the universe. However, I also naively felt that mind was the deepest base from which to commune. My spiritual awakening at 40 was about heart-opening, and the level on which that communes with / connects to the universe.