To the Reader: My intention with this article is simply to share a rare experience and support the conversation around therapeutic use of psychedelics, while pointing out a few signposts that might prove useful when preparing for your own trip, should you choose to go there.
If so, I admire your courage, and I hope you enjoy the ride.
What follows are opinions. I am not claiming to have “figured out” DMT, or how it should be approached. And anyone that does is irresponsibly ignorant. All I can do is share the view through my lens.
There I was, on a damp Winter evening in Vancouver, about to inhale four hits of N,N-dimethyltryptamine – or, DMT – one of the most potent psychedelic compounds available.
I was still somewhat surprised that I was about to make such a radical choice. Chalk it up to curiosity, I guess.
I feel compelled to push the envelope of how much I can explore, experience and grow during my time here. And every single time I’ve journeyed with them, psychedelics have permanently upgraded my life.
Like many, I became familiar with DMT through two people. One was Dr. Rick Strassman – M.D. and psychopharmacologist – who popularized it through his various books, research, and the documentary, The Spirit Molecule, which is on Netflix.
The second was Joe Rogan – a well-known comedian and MMA commentator – who’s shared trip experiences on his podcast, which is downloaded roughly 30 million times per month.
I had tried other psychedelics before this (cannabis, mushrooms, LSD, mescaline, salvia, etc.) but I knew what was coming next would be an eviscerating firework show of a magnitude and intensity I had no precedent for.
There’s no combination of words you could weave, or hours you could speak for, that would fully translate the complex and nuanced nature of this sort of trip.
As Terrence McKenna once quipped, it is “un-nglishable”. And while there seem to be a few consistent similarities, the experience is largely different for everyone.
For me, it was a complete demolition of the fixed sense of individual consciousness and all material reality, which gave way to a feeling of infinite boundlessness. I rocketed between dimensions at light-speed and engaged in subliminal, energetic dialogue with entities made of wiggling lines of neon light.
It was as though, for a short time, the limited apertures of the five senses were blown open and I had unrestricted access to the full bandwidth of all spectrums.
Until we can squirt inky rings at each other to relay layers of non-linear information, like the aliens in the film Arrival, a few clumsy paragraphs will have to suffice to put across a glimpse through a keyhole of this sort of territory.
The Trip: Part I
Lying on the living room floor, while a friend prepares the dose in a glass pipe, I stare at the ceiling with a soft smile.
A salt lamp throws an amber glow that washes over my white-walled apartment.
Despite all the stories I’d heard – from harrowing to heavenly – I was completely at ease. I felt absolute trust that whatever was about to happen would be exactly what I needed and there would be something far greater than myself to guide me through it.
“Are you ready?”
I tautly release a long, slow exhale – dissolving all tension. I smirk.
McKenna’s famous advice echoes through my mind, “Do not give way to astonishment. Hang on. Pay attention, pay attention.”
I resolved to resist being distracted by the chaotic intensity of this catapulting from the neurochemical slingshot. I wanted to touch down on the other side with more to show for it than a wild story. My mind’s eye was pried open, keen to extract something.
The jet-lighter clicks and the long tongue of the blue torch licks the glass. Like the hushed roar of thrusters on a space shuttle, it foreshadows the coming launch.
The crystals vaporize.
I pull the small milky cloud into the bottom of my lungs and hold.
The gentle tingle of pins-and-needles washes over my entire body, which suddenly becomes heavy – sinking a half-inch into the floor. A high-pitch frequency begins ringing in my ears.
My smile grows wider.
Quick Time Out: Some Background Notes On My Approach
On the occasions I’ve taken psychedelics, I rediscover a consuming, revelatory sense of awe for the mysteries and straight up magic of mere existence, which fosters a more steadfast sense of gratitude in my day-to-day.
I also tend to get valuable insights into my current operating system and the ways in which it interferes with the success of my artistic, professional, and romantic lives.
I don’t use them to party, or just because I have nothing better to do on a Thursday night. I’m always surprised by those with attitudes casual enough to treat tripping like popping an Advil, or cracking a can of Red Bull.
I’d rather follow an intuitive readiness for the right substance, with the right people, at the right time. I think I have that to thank for the fact that I’ve never had a negative experience.
I’m a fan of the idea that the right drug, rightly used, can be a diagnostic tool for the ego, or an interior telescope through which you can see hidden aspects of yourself.
Beyond the lightshow, the discoveries we make with them can have the potential to stimulate significant, long-lasting alterations in our psychology and lifestyle, which yield more fulfillment and equilibrium.
With new insight into why we do what we do, or think the way we think – as well as reverse engineering it – we are empowered to make beneficial changes in our lives and experience more harmony, from the inside out.
To play off one of Jung’s popular quotes:
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
DMT served all this up in spades.
That said, it’s wickedly intense and I don’t think it’s for everyone, nor is any drug. If you want to learn about yourself, or have a mystical experience, you don’t have to go to these lengths. There are other phones you can pick up to get the message.
But if you’re serious and as helplessly curious as I was to try it, there are a few practical things I’ll urge you to consider, which I’ll flesh out in more detail in a moment.
The Trip: Part II
I nod. The lighter clicks. At the height of the draw the pitch of the frequency ratchets up.
My visual field begins to warp. Colours hyper-saturate. Sharp resolution degenerates into round pixels. For a moment, everything looks like it’s filtered through Super Mario Brothers on the original 8-bit Nintendo.
Wide eyed, I nod again. I’m losing grip. Click. Hiss. There’s so much happening, so fast, I can’t keep track. I inhale and hold once again.
Everything is rippling and liquefying as though an inferno was melting the veil from the other side.
A window into an entirely other place rips open. It looks like the live feed of a security camera, mounted in the corner of a nightclub suspended somewhere on the fringes of a neighbouring galaxy.
Two black silhouettes materialize. They giddily welcome me with frantic excitement before pausing to pull my focus and direct my attention toward the pipe. Their gestures are accented with brightly animated arrows.
I feel them saying, “Hey! Yes! Okay! Okay. Focus. You’re almost there, you’re almost there…”
Real or not, I trust them.
I’m nearly gone. Only a vague residue of self-awareness remains in a furious digital blizzard. I turn my head. There’s no nodding. I can’t feel my lips. I can’t tell where the pipe is. I don’t know what’s up and what’s down. But I inhale anyways.
My mind and body are being palpably stretched like an elastic band. A dozen digitally modulated voices whisper my name in overlapping chorus.
The stretch pauses at its breaking point. I hear the pipe crinkle like cellophane giftwrap. As if it was a firecracker between my lips, the glass explodes in my face and – in an instant – my entire world collapses in on itself like an imploding star.
Tumbling through a technicolour wormhole at light speed, my vision somehow expands to 360 degrees. There’s no room for presence or reflection. It’s full throttle.
If the come-ups of LSD and psilocybin are like the steady, chugging roll of a locomotive, smoking DMT is like violently shifting gears from “park” to “warp speed” in the Millennium Falcon. It happens in a matter of seconds.
As the brakes engage and the swirl of colour slows, a single bewildered thought gently crystallizes in my mind:
“Wow… There is so much more than what I know, so much more…”
The Trip: Part III
I emerge on the other side of the wormhole into the place that opened up before the 4th hit.
I’m on the periphery of a party, like the backstage lounge at a rave in outer space. There are only vague contours of shapes floating in a black void. The distant thump of muffled bass permeates the room.
Four elaborate stick figures have been waiting for me. Their bodies are made of vibrating lines of multi-coloured fluorescent light. Somehow I sense that two were masculine and two were more feminine.
We sit down to lounge together in a corner, as if talking over drinks. One of the masculine figures has taken a particular interest. He starts to communicate, without words. But I can feel his attention and intuit his message.
He really cares. He’s earnestly trying to impart something important.
I’ve regained awareness of being myself in space and time. There’s an urge to process, to take notes, to ensure that I don’t forget.
My entire body is buzzing with a low-grade orgasm. I’m desperately stretching every limb and cracking my neck. It feels like I’m breaking off a suit of armour.
The notions of “repression”, a crucifix and “sexual guilt” flash across my mind. Something deep in my foundation was being flushed to the surface.
As I begin to think and self-reflect, the vividness of the room begins to fade. I recognize the shift and bring my awareness back into my body, wriggling around a little bit. The visuals intensify once again and they gleefully encourage me.
“Yes, YES!! That’s it, that’s it!”
They want me to stop thinking and be present. They want me to get out of my head. We repeat this feedback loop a few times.
“Ahh, okay, ooo-kay, I get it, I get it!” I declare aloud childishly. I throw my legs and arms open like a starfish, trying to loosen up as much as I can.
I’m starting to understand the point of the interaction. These figures, the feeling in my body, and the tone of this entire landscape, are reflecting back to me restrained aspects of my true nature that I might focus on integrating – wildness, sensuality, boldness, and social freedom.
As the room starts to fade one last time, I make peace with the fact that I’m coming down.
I float upward out of the room and rise back into my body from underground.
There’s a dual awareness of being in both places at once. On my side, face next to the floor, and still very high, I softly slap the ground with gratitude and say goodbye. My chest swells.
“Thank you, thank you. I like you guys. I’ll be back, someday, maybe…”
I flip on my back and turn my gaze to the ceiling. A light chuckle quickly gives way to gaping awe. I lay still as the buzz in my body tapers off.
There I was, ten minutes later, back where I started – lying on my living room floor, staring at the ceiling with a soft smile, bathed in an amber glow.
3 Things To Consider Before Taking DMT
I’m not a DMT authority, or a shaman, but having shared a bit of my experience of being to the other side, I feel I’m obligated to mention a few points that beg for emphasis.
So, if you’re thinking about it, here are my personal recommendations before you dive in:
1. Have ample experience with altered states and other psychedelics.
Trust and surrender are paramount qualities for any successful and positive psychedelic experience. This is especially the case with DMT. It will fiercely rip your ego’s hands off the steering wheel like nothing else.
Crossing this threshold is a bit like bobbing in the rapids of a river that’s approaching the lip of a towering waterfall. You can feel it coming. It’s both intimidating and inevitable. When you’re approaching that lip, there’s only one thing you can influence:
Will you surrender to it with grace and faith, or contract in fear, struggling and screaming as you tip into free fall?
Be patient. Don’t rush yourself. If you don’t feel ready yet, even when you step up to bat, walk away. Work your way up. It will be worth the wait.
The more familiar you are with the sensation and experience of the dissolution of self, and the more you trust in something outside of your own ego system, the more confidently you can release control and bring some semblance of ease, grace, and relaxed awareness to the situation.
I have found that this capacity then increases the ability to distill lasting transformational wisdom from the whole experience.
2. Do it sacredly with a guide and people you love and trust.
It is well-known that your physical and psychological comfort has a profound impact on your trips. This idea has been captured in the classic axiom “Set and Setting”, which can also be said as “right mindset and environment.”
For example, I was with 3 guys who were my closest, most intimate friends at the time. Given that they are each sharp people, with ample psychedelic experience, I knew that we could support and help each other unpack what we went through.
Plus, the guy that held the pipe had prior experience with DMT. He is also someone that I would trust with my life. No questions asked.
(Side note: having someone to hold the pipe for you will also ensure that you’re able to take enough draws to fully break through, while struggling to manage the overwhelming onset of the first two hits.)
We also did it somewhat ceremonially, one at a time, in silence. Blankets were laid out in the center of the room for the tripper to lie back on, so they could fully let go. I burned some Palo Santo (Peruvian wood incense) and filled the place with its warm, earthy aroma. Everything felt completely safe and sacred, in our own way.
You’re a sovereign individual. No one can tell you how to manage your states of consciousness. But for what it’s worth, please, of all the drugs, don’t do DMT in a tent at a fucking music festival.
3. Maybe they’re inter-dimensional entities, but maybe they’re not.
It’s critical to bring a healthy, balanced perspective into this. I’ve seen a few people get overly absorbed in these experiences and have them quite regularly.
They parrot the insight that “this is all just an illusion”, energetically pulling their chips off the table and lowering their stakes in the 3-dimensional game of life on Earth. As a result, their relationships suffer, along with their physical and mental health.
How is that conclusion useful?
There could very well be other dimensions and intelligences far beyond the scope of ours. Based on how wild the Universe is, I actually believe that’s more likely to be the case than not.
But if all that is so, maybe you’re having this limited human experience for a reason.
Why not play full out in this life – illusion or not? If these other dimensions exist, and you’re going to eventually experience them anyways, or already are on a transpersonal level, then there’s no sense running from the here-and-now.
It seems this kind of psychedelic experience is often used to support subconscious initiatives for spiritual bypassing, because it’s the ultimate “get-out-of-jail-free card”.
Why face into your problems and responsibilities, or bother risking failure, if it’s all just an illusion anyways?
If you’re going to take DMT, use it as an empowering leverage point to further yourself on your path, rather than distract from it. Use it as a true psychedelic – mind manifesting/revealing.
And while it’s an insane, mind-blowing ride through an electric circus that defies all understanding – as a friend likes it call it – you can still approach it like a powerful dream.
For example, I can choose to interpret my experience, and the dialogues in it, as encounters with aspects of my own mind, that were highlighting the next layer of skin I needed to shed in my growth process.
This way, I’m still extracting a lot of value without getting too carried away with the implications of the reality of the experience. Don’t get me wrong, I still stop dead in my tracks once every few months while revisiting the memories and think, “Man, what the fuck WAS all that!?”
Final Notes & Takeaways
I’d already developed an awareness of my tendency to be “heady” before DMT. I picked it up in various ways, mostly through relationships, workshops, travel, and direct feedback.
I knew I was prone to getting locked up, caught in trains of thought, and over-indulging in the safety of retreating into my mind.
I’d always found it hard to access and vulnerably communicate my emotions, needs and raw thoughts with others, especially in romantic relationships.
My modus operandi was thinking and calculating not feeling and being.
Various childhood dynamics – from my family system to the Catholic church – had established an unconscious repressive pattern of restraining my impulses and calculating my behaviour, for fear of judgment and rejection.
That dynamic has been my main obstacle to feeling self-expressed and experiencing true intimacy.
Centered in the castle of my mind, I’d feel like a bit of an outsider in groups of other people. I always felt like I was subtly posturing, presenting, or holding something back.
While I’ve noticed huge strides over the last few years, I’ll still be working on this for a long time to come.
I didn’t need DMT to discover and work on this issue, or to contact a beneficial sense of awe for the wonders of life.
It didn’t revolutionize that obstructive dynamic, or liberate me from it once-and-for-all. But it did help to illuminate it in very novel ways, which I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
That trip was in February of 2016. As beautiful as it was, I’m not sure that I’ll ever do it again.
As I said, I’m no shaman, but I hope this has been somewhat useful, if not at least mildly entertaining.
Whatever it is that you’re seeking, I hope you find what you’re looking for.