The Life/Integration Matrix: the challenges of psychedelic peak experience digestion in a modern existence
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately noting how the pace of life, the pace of MY life, makes me feel as though sometimes it speeds by like Wiley Coyote with barely a moment to stop and take in the face melting splendour of it all, before I’m off the cliff again with another peak experience/psychedelic journey or challenging life event. Such is the nature of this existence. As we get older and approach closer the bony fingers of the reaper, our perception seems to be that time is speeding up.
It’s a delicious discussion in its own, with Papa Terrence suggesting in a YouTube lecture I cannot recommend enough (not going to apologise for the immediate referencing of McKenna, if it’s cliché then cover me in honey and throw me to the acid badgers, he’s the shit) that we are headed TOWARDS, not away from, a kind of imminent, inverse Big Bang he refers to as the Eschaton.
Is time speeding up because we are approaching some ineffable endpoint that will wipe our cosmological slate clean and pop out a new scaffold with which the universe can begin experiencing itself anew all over? Or like a gentleman I was informed of recently with a ‘Stay Busy’ tattoo proudly carved into his chest (although I wish it were on the knuckles of each of his hands – you gotta have street cred in the burn yourself out business right?) this is the new normal.
Is the feeling that the years dissolve with increasing swiftness a by-product of our increasingly time poor existence where slaying yourself being social, working, researching, partying, creating, YouTube wormholing and travelling this pale blue dot takes priority over ‘steeping in your rest like tea in hot water’ as a wicked yoga teacher of mine once referred to it.
All of the above is before you even chuck exploring, expanding, bending, blending and upending your consciousness with the myriad psychedelics and plant medicines proliferating in the Western Zeitgeist again in the modern psychedelic revolution. That’s what we’re here for on the APS website right? Because we all feel the same burning desire, albeit from many different pulpits, platforms, backgrounds and vistas to exist with total cognitive liberty and egalitarian access to healing which to some indigenous cultures has been in use for tens of thousands, potentially even over 100 thousand years.
The systemic global patchwork and capitalist paradigm we have been used to for the last hundred years is crumbling like a cookie whilst simultaneously ripping at the seams giving us a look at its insides. For a lot of us it’s a pretty disconcerting ride to find out the stuffing and gizzards are not really what we’ve been told they were all this time. This is where the integration space becomes crucial; it is the nexus, the meeting point where regardless of the speed of life, regardless of the challenges we face and regardless of existential tumult, we can draw the jewel out of the journey and return home triumphant, feeling ever so slightly better equipped to rise another day and stay busy. Hahaha!
Now I’m not suggesting I hold all the keys. I’m certainly no master in this field and I believe humility is something sorely missing from most folk these days. I’ve acquired but a few keys on my keyring from my time in the cosmic game and if even just one of you find a delicious nugget to take into your life or psychedelic practice then I’m a happy vegemite.
1. Intention setting.
In my own practice this is one of the most underrated tools for both life and psychedelic/medicinal explorations. When you bring intention setting into your everyday existence and not just a psychedelic, ceremonial or ritual context it crystallizes your focus both on a conscious and subconscious level and can help to stem the runaway sensation of time poverty. It allows for an invisible barometer with which to check back in with your speedy existence and note whether you are using this incredible vessel we are given as wisely as possible. When you utilise it in a psychedelic context the journey begins ahead of time, almost like the backwards helical flow of future time reaches out a tendril and the medicine lands in this moment, before anything enters your body exogenously.
I have had an extremely rickety run with taking psychedelics recreationally with an absence of intention setting and have experienced many a bad trip where the gargoyles of my subconscious hound me relentlessly. How many times do you have to fall down an open manhole before you learn your lesson and course correct? Many, many times, let me tell you. Setting an affirmative intention that is grounded and tangible but also potent in its reaches gives you a checklist that you can come back to if things do turn pear shaped, banana shaped or whatever kind of uneven fruit shape your psychedelic dabbles take.
At the very least, crafting a solid intention before you embark on these most sacred, special and seriously strange journeys will help you integrate once the ride is over, because you chose to do this, chose to heal yourself, chose to affect change and get by just a nibble better than you did before.
Spending time in nature WHILE tripping is probably one of the most important pieces of the SET and SETTING part of the equation that comes even before integration. Utilising the splendour of the natural world AFTER you’ve had a reality shattering psychedelic journey, or even just a little nudge of a microdose is one of the most effective ways of allowing the downloads, gems, shifts, changes and most importantly difficulties to slot in with ease.
The psychic surgery of the psychedelic journey can be traumatic, especially at higher doses and the integration space is where you can allow these difficult phases of adjustment to flow through you like the winds of the forest you’re sitting in cross legged just watching, listening, feeling and tuning in to the pulse and rhythm of this wonderful planet. There is a ludicrous amount of beauty that is easily accessible even in the major cities. Merri Creek here in Melbourne, Bronte Beach in Sydney, I could go on and on. (If you’re from Victoria and you’re looking for some advice on road trips to places, drop me a line.)
3. Sharing circles.
I’ve not attended the sharing circles run by APS but I am reliably informed they are immaculately facilitated and rather incredible indeed. In my recent and very fortunate experiences of sitting regularly in plant medicine ceremony, one of my absolute favourite moments is the circle the following day. Everyone shares whatever they wish for no matter how little or as powerfully they wish.
To be seen expressing your journey, the visions, your struggles and inner gooey giblets, concretises your experiences from the day or the previous evening. It makes real and tangible the hitherto ineffable experiences. It allows for a collaborative energetic sharing as jaws lay agape, guffaws rend holes in ear drums and tears rain down. There are very few things in life as special as the profundity and effusiveness of expression that takes place in these circles – something that just sharing trip stories with your mates well after the fact cannot accomplish.
Everybody can learn something from everybody else regardless of what you perceive your differences to be. That person sitting opposite you may have the small skerrick of advice regarding your rough return to reality that may cause the entire trillion piece puzzle you’re trying to put together come together in a mere instant.
As anyone who knows me can attest to, and maybe you can too from reading this article, words are my thing. Language is the source code of the universe but at some point trying to express the great unmanifest and the experiences of the psychedelic realm just doesn’t cut it. You must get into your body and your breath and trust in the innate well of intelligence that this most profound technology bestows upon us.
Anything that gets you out of your mind and into your body and breath will do the trick, whether that’s yoga, swimming, meditating or breathwork (the latter two of which could be their own section to be sure). Or it could be going to a gig and looking like you’ve got rabies and have lost control of the movement of your body. Even just throw on some tunes in your lounge room and dance around in your underwear. Ridiculous you say? How about those 2 tabs of LSD you just somehow survived through?
Very simple. I use my computer these days because my poor first world hands have forgotten how to handwrite. Whatever is spinning around in that majestic noggin of yours needs to come out onto the page. Stream of consciousness style is usually better even if the flow is a bit ragged. When you clear your head of the thoughts and downloads that proliferate during the integrative post medicinal phase you allow the flourishing and ease of the recovery to flow more trippingly.
Many people are averse to this one but my time as a paramedic taught me pretty bloody quickly that no one is superhuman and sometimes you need to rant with tear filled eyes to a stranger about the things you’ve seen to help process them. I’ve met people who have had experiences equally if not more harrowing than the traumatic paramedical days. Seek help. Your friends and family (unless they’re your psychonautical squad, and even then) are not equipped to help you make sense of your psychedelic journeying and the way it can totally upend your existence after the fact.
This list is by no means exhaustive, mainly because I have gone way closer to the word limit for posting than I could have imagined. These are just my opinions from my explorations to this point and I don’t believe in absolutes in a relativistic universe where nothing can be taken as certain. I acknowledge my psychedelic privilege and the freedom and ease with which I am able to access these medicines and experiences and release freely into them with little to no fear of repercussion or my safety. I am working towards a space where that privilege dissolves. Thanks for reading!