3. Preparing for Takeoff
How psychedelic drugs will effect you have more to do with your physical and psychological environment than the drugs themselves. Of course, certain psychedelic drugs and doses carry with them a particular territory, but whether or not you find a welcoming party in that territory depends entirely on set and setting. These are the two most important words in any trippers vocabulary – ask anyone experienced with these substances and they will nod their heads agreeingly. Timothy Leary explains set much better than I can, and so I will quote from The Psychedelic Experience.
Set – “There are two aspects of set: long-range and immediate.
Long-range set refers to the personal history, the enduring personality. The kind of person you are – your fears, desires, conflicts, guilts, secret passions – determines how you interpret and manage any situation you enter, including a psychedelic session. Perhaps more important are the reflex mechanisms used when dealing with anxiety – the defenses, the protective maneuvers typically employed. Flexibility, basic trust, religious faith, human openness, courage, interpersonal warmth, creativity, are characteristics which allow for fun and easy learning. Rigidity, desire to control, distrust, cynicism, narrowness, cowardice, coldness, are characteristics which make any new situation threatening. Most important is insight. No matter how many cracks in the record, the person who has some understanding of his own recording machinery, who can recognize when he is not functioning as he would wish, is better able to adapt to any challenge – even the sudden collapse of his ego.
The most careful preparation would include some discussion of the personality characteristics and some planning with the guide as to how to handle expected emotional reactions when they occur.
Immediate set refers to the expectations about the session itself. Session preparation is of critical importance in determining how the experience unfolds. People tend naturally to impose their personal and social game perspectives on any new situation. Careful thought should precede the session to prevent narrow sets being imposed. Medical expectations. Some ill-prepared subjects unconsciously impose a medical model on the experience. They look for symptoms, interpret each new sensation in terms of sickness/health, place the guide in a doctor-role, and, if anxiety develops, demand chemical rebirth – i.e., tranquilizers. Occasionally one hears of casual, ill-planned, non-guided sessions which end in the subject demanding to be hospitalized, etc. It is even more problem-provoking if the guide employs a medical model, watches for symptoms, and keeps hospitalization in mind to fall back on, as protection for himself.”
It should be clear to you now, if it wasn’t already, that psychedelics are a lot different to other drugs you may have had experience with in the past. They require a lot more care and planning, and should only ever be taken when your head is clear and free of confusion or paranoia. Never take psychedelic drugs to escape or to get high… I know that sounds crazy as those are two valid reasons for someone to take drugs, but psychedelics aren’t drugs in the usual sense of the word, instead they are powerful tools for introspection and spiritual growth. They are classified under their own special umbrella term called ‘entheogens’, which roughly translates to as ‘generating the divine within’. The effects have the ability to take you out of your body, and to even take you out of the physical plane into other planes of consciousness that you never knew existed. Your mind is capable of some far out things, as you no doubt appreciate from all of the dreams and nightmares you’ve had, but you will soon discover with psychedelics that it’s capable of even stranger things. Psychedelics, when used right, are quite the opposite to falling asleep, it is more like waking up. I know it’s cliché. (I also know it’s cliché to say ‘it’s cliché’, but is it cliché to say it’s cliché to say it’s cliché? I don’t know.)
The more careful attention you bring to your set the better the experience will be. Taking psychedelics is like holding a mirror in front of your brain so it can see itself for the first time – it will magnify anything you are holding onto internally, and this can be a liberating experience as it has the opportunity to confront you with issues which cannot be ignored for any longer, or it can be very scary. Don’t let me freak you out, most of the time psychedelics will not do this, or if they do, it will be in a fairly gentle way. If you approach the experience with good intentions, and a clear head, you will most likely have one of the best experiences of your life. Countless psychiatric studies have been conducted with psychedelics in the past, and even recently, and all of these studies have pointed towards tremendous spiritual experiences had by the participants.
A good way to prepare yourself mentally is to allow yourself three whole days for the voyage, that is one day before the trip, one day for the trip, and one day to decompress after the trip. It goes without saying that all three of these days should be completely free of stress, or at least as free from it as possible. Call in sick at work, tell your boss you have lupus; tell everyone you know you’re going to Africa and will be back in three days; unplug your home phone; put a sign on your front door that says ‘Gone Fishing’ or something. The first day is to prepare for the trip, so on this day it is advisable to abstain from eating greasy foods, and to instead eat simple foods such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, breads, juices, water, milk etc. It’s also beneficial to meditate on this day, in order to get your head clear. If you have never meditated before then I have written up two simple meditations that you can use, they are:
You can also use either of these meditations on the day of the trip, and on the day after if you desire. Hell, just meditate every day. Get an early sleep the night before and aim to wake up early the next day. You want to be as fresh as you can because taking psychedelics isn’t comparable to smoking a joint after a long day of work. You can plan the day before, the day after, and the environment for the trip, but not the trip itself, as that is an aspect which you cannot, and should not attempt to control – you can guide it, yes, but don’t try to change it. A psychedelic experience is not a ball of clay that you can mould at your own leisure, you cannot enter the experience with a shopping list of things you must do in whatever order, and sensations you must feel.