We’ve now treated hundreds of participants with psychedelics and before sessions, one of the key things that we teach them is that upon taking a psychedelic, there’s going to be an explosion of interior experiences. What we ask them to do is be with those experiences — be interested and curious. You don’t have to figure anything out. You’re going to have guides, and we’re going to create this safety container around you.
But here’s the trick: These are not necessarily feel-good experiences.
People can have experiences in which they feel like they come to this beautiful understanding of who they are and what the world is, but people can also have frightening experiences. The preparation we give for these experiences is to stay with them, be curious and recognize the ephemeral nature of them. If you do that, you’re going to find that they change.
The metaphor we use is, imagine that you’re confronted with the most frightening demon you can imagine. It’s made by you, for you, to scare you. I’ll say: “There’s nothing in consciousness that can hurt you. So what you want to do is be deeply curious and, if anything, approach it.” If your natural tendency is to run, it can chase you for the entire session. But if you can see it as an appearance of mind, then you go, “Oh, that’s scary, but yeah, I’m going to investigate that.”
Because there’s something about the nature of these experiences under these certain conditions that produce remarkable experiences of interconnectedness of all things. At the deepest level, if we recognize we’re all in this together, then we have the kernel of what I suspect is most religious traditions and impulses and that is realizing that the Golden Rule makes a lot of sense.
Why would evolution waste its precious energy on our having interior experiences at all? I don’t get that. To me, it’s a very precious mystery, and that mystery, if you want to put it in religious terms, is God. It’s the unknowable. It’s unfathomable. I don’t believe in God as conceptualized within different religious traditions, but the mystery thing is something that strikes me as undeniable.
I want everyone to appreciate the joy and wonder of every single moment of their lives. We should be astonished that we are here when we look around at the exquisite wonder and beauty of everything. I think everyone has a sense of that already. It’s leaning into that more fully. There is a reason every day to celebrate that we’re alive, that we have another day to explore whatever this gift is of being conscious, of being aware, of being aware that we are aware. That’s the deep mystery that I keep talking about. That’s to be celebrated!