There were seven of us that afternoon, assembled in a loose circle watching as the 1-gram portions of ground psilocybin were mixed into liquid cacao.
It was a cold February afternoon. A Sunday, fittingly, which somehow became the appointed moment for this impromptu mushroom journey. All of us were pretty experienced psychonauts, and the dose was small. But it felt special because we were going to take our trip in a 3D immersive sound room, with two amazing sonic alchemists guiding our way.
My history with mushrooms dates back to high school, when a friend was gifted a box of long-stemmed white and blue-tinged Psilocybe mexicana, packed in still-moist soil. We snuck into the forest behind our dorm and gagged as we shot gulps of RC Cola to get them down. Nothing happened for what seemed like an hour until, just as we were about to head back to study, we were overcome by a rush of psychedelic nausea and world-enveloping synesthesia. I still remember us running deep into the forest, howling like a pack of wolves; equally terrified by the overwhelming immersion of the state-change and the risk of being caught by a teacher without the faculty to explain ourselves.
Hours later and near dark, we ended up on the bank of a river, in the quiet of our own trips, simulating some amoebic emergence with our fingers and hands. Then it was over, as suddenly as it started.
And my on-again off-again love affair with mushrooms had begun.
Despite the intensity of that first trip, I always regarded psilocybin as a kind of secondary psychedelic to LSD. It was something we took at parties and festivals. Mostly fun, always nausea-inducing, these fungi never really got me to the kind of hysterical, trippy-technicolor, reality-expanding mind loops that acid delivered. And when I discovered DMT, the ‘food of the gods’ moved even further into the periphery.
But on this afternoon, with these special people, I felt excited at the prospect of a low-impact, sonically-guided trip into the psi-realm. Our beautiful chemist passed out small copitas with the shroom-cacao cocktail and, after a short blessing and setting of intentions, we downed the delicious serum.
The room was circular and dark, the walls lined with ambisonic speakers. Soft cotton mats were arranged on the floor in a semi-circle in front of a beautiful array of bowls, gongs, and xylophones. From the center of the roof hung a microphone. We gathered around it, uttering whispered incantations and animal noises that echoed and filled the space. Our hosts began to send tones and frequencies into the mix and very soon we all felt the medicine kicking in.
We fanned out, each taking a mat.
I lay on my back and relaxed into the psychotropic energy that was pulsing through my body; the psilocybin gripped my jaw and I closed my eyes.
I want to say it was immediate, the quantum transport to a time and a place as distant as possible from that moment.
As distant as possible – but also deeply familiar – because it is the first sequential memory that I possess. And one that I have thought about perhaps more than any other memory in my life. But not because it evokes anything close to happiness or nostalgia. Rather, it is significant due to the sheer horror of the event, and the complex mystery it seeded at the core of my being.
Indeed, I knew this spacetime coordinate well enough that, as soon as I realized where I was, I instinctively curled up into a protective ball and held my self very tightly. Tears moistened the edges of my eyes. But not the kind born from the recognition of something lost, that cathartic release that emerges from the emotional reservoir of the heart. No, this was something altogether different; a more profound and paralyzing level of anguish.
This was coming from the depths of my soul.
But instead of opening my eyes and trying to shut it out, I felt the gentle authority of the medicine push heat into my body, holding my heart. Asking me to trust.
So I surrendered and let my self fall fall fall back back back, until I was there, in that memory, in a way that I had not been since the time that it all went down.
[It is at this point that I must warn anyone who is triggered by childhood sexual or physical trauma: that while this story does not contain images that approach anything close to the standard evils of those narratives, it is traumatic in wholly other ways. So do proceed with that in mind.]
The year is 1973. I am five years old, in my Kindergarten class at a small school called St. Joseph’s in Montreal. We are sitting at our desks, which are arranged in a small square. At the front of the room is a line of painting easels, fresh paper drawn from the coiled rolls. The scent of acrylic paint filling the room.
Our teacher calls out names – in alphabetical order – of the students who’s turn it is to paint that day. Mine is second or third and I stand happily to take my first shot at public art.
I am still amazed at how clearly I remember the action of dipping my brush into the rich electric blue paint and committing a thick line to the virgin paper. It felt so… perfect; that magikal act of turning nothing into something.
But the satisfaction only lasts a few moments because the next thing I feel is the heat of urine running down my leg. My ears burn with fear that quickly shifts into shame and I glance back to see a thin line of yellow liquid running into the seats of my classmates.
I panic and drop my brush. Burst from the room, run across the hall into the bathroom, and lock my self in a large wooden stall. From which I do not emerge until my mother has been sent for and is pleading with me to open the door and come out. Which I do, but not until I have been assured the other children are out for recess.
Here, the sequential linearity of the memory breaks down and fast-forwards to the home office of our pediatrician. I am naked and my penis is being examined. The doctor is telling my mother I am going to need to have an operation. She is telling me that everything will be OK.
I’m not so sure.
Fast forward again.
Now I am on a hospital bed. In a large room with other people in hospital beds, which are being wheeled toward the door of an operating room, as their turn gets closer. My mother is with me as I receive the anesthetic shot in my butt.
Some more time passes and then comes the nurse with the gas. My mother squeezes my hand and waves goodbye. I watch as the mask is placed over my mouth and nose, which immediately makes me drowsy.
The hospital bed starts to move. I feel the anesthetic – oh that syrupy transcendence that I would crave for the rest of my life – turn my body into an oasis.
And I begin to lift out of my body.
Back in the mushroom journey, I am lying face down on my mat, my knees hugged tightly into my chest. At some point, early on, I removed my hoodie and am now using it as an absorbent to soak up the torrent of tears, and to muffle the incessant sobbing.
Carnal precipitation evoked by the deep sorrow and compassion I feel for for this child. This little boy I am now hovering above as he lies on the hospital bed, innocent and still in love with the world.
I remember thinking to my self: this tsunami of feeling that the mushrooms have unleashed from my heart, this nectar of empathy coursing through my entire being… is a kind and quality of self-love I have never experienced, in my whole life.
I gripped my hoodie harder, pressing my face into it to ensure that the others would not hear me scream. Because I know what comes next.
It happens suddenly. Out of the dark void that is protecting me from my surgery.
My eyes open.
And I am lying on the table, with the white-cloaked torsos of masked nurses and doctors standing around me. Looking down at my center, at my core. At my small penis that is in some contraption, holding it straight, and some thin metal spike-like object entered into the tip. Into my shaft.
I can feel it pinching, cutting, contaminating my entire being.
Cutting me open on some spiritual dimension.
The feel of the metal on my flesh – which even now, as I write these words, has me in body-shock and gripping the head of my cock through my jeans – sends a kind of terrible electricity through my tiny body.
A nurse reacts and lunges toward me, pushing the gas mask back over my face. I take one last look at my impaled organ and black out.
Oh. God. Oh fuck…
I lay there on my mat, in the damp residue of my trauma. Watching the memory flicker out to the perimeter of my mind’s eye. The final image: a trickle of blood in the toilet back at my home, and then the sting of urine. A return to normalcy, but never to a normal life.
Why did you show me this?
I must have asked the question, because the answer came quickly. In that oneiric un-voice that comes from some all-knowing territory.
You need to understand.
Understand?… I pushed back. I have always understood this was a seminal (no pardon for the pun) wound. I have always known that it was something I had to live with. That it had… impact. How many other people had suffered way more traumatic – and more maliciously orchestrated – medical injuries?
But this is about you.
But I knew that. I could feel the pulse of recognition, and the new kind of emotion washing through my body. The kind you feel when an angel walks across your path.
Now, here, finally… I could see – I was being shown – the linear connectivity between the painting of that blue line and the trauma that has penetrated my entire creative life. (Even as I have struggled to write this piece, I have felt the consistent waves moving from my center, telling me NO.)
It’s almost inconceivable that I got this far.
But I can also say, that since the experience of that psilocybin journey, the trauma has lessened its hold on me.
Because there, on that mat – with my entire being entangled in the fabric of that timeless injury – the medicine was showing me how to use my access to the quantum field to travel there and re-experience it from the vantage point that is required for integral healing.
Because that memory, and that moment, have now been altered forever. It is no longer a five-year old boy waking up alone and terrified with some alien object cutting into his flesh and weird unsympathetic strangers hovering over him.
Now I am “with him” signaling with absolute authority that everything is going to be ok. And that my presence there is absolute proof of that.
Using this visioning process, I continue to alter it, and many other traumatic and self-forming aspects of my story, in the same way. And I have seen the evidence of how this healing modality transforms my present self. Even the writing of this testimonial is evidence of that; I could not have written this even a year ago. It happens incredibly slowly, but trust me, we are entangled directly with every spacetime coordinate that is part of our ‘life’.
[I had an incredible experience with this as I was doing somatic healing with a practitioner a year after the psilocybin journey. She was working with me on the “moment of the waking up” on the operating room table, and she asked me to identify what autonomic response (fight or flight) I was feeling: “Is your instinct to fight or to run away?” I sat there trying to find the answer, because neither seemed right. And then I sensed it: “I just feel neither. I am paralyzed.” And with that I began to feel this incredibly strong wave of narcotic dreaminess flowing into the room. It was almost frightening.
“Do you feel that?” I asked.
“Yes”, she said.
“What is it?”
“It’s the anesthetic. Just let it happen.”
And I did. I let my body secrete the sensation it had absorbed nearly fifty years ago into the room, as it did its work to reconstitute and re-integrate its fractured pieces.]
This may sound totally fantastical. But its what happened. And what continues to happen as long as I focus on the work.
We all have the power to travel to any moment or time of our life that we choose. To energetically connect with those facets of ourselves (and our genetic predecessors) which rule and define us from the moments of injury, and to push love and compassion and protection into the territory of our memories. Because in quantum, all moments are living and entangled components of the present. All are viable portals to regaining agency over our lives.
[I often write about how this extends beyond the personal, with revolutionary implications.]
As the medicine wore off, I became aware that all my tears were the instinctual, grateful recognition that, finally, some part of my self was actually going to help this child. And it was all happening with the help of this magical intelligent plant called psilocybin. How lucky we are to have them here to help us, especially at this time, when so many of us have so much to heal. Especially as we undertake the mission to create a new world from our power and not our wounds
I leave you with a picture of myself taken last week in the wilds of Oregon, where I did a solo mushroom trip – yes, they’re back on top! – running naked and barefoot along the soft mossy paths. Until I found a river and immersed my self in it. Finding connection, once again, with mother and all she offers for our wounded species.