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How to Meditate with Psychedelics
Meditation interventions are known for reducing stress and anxiety and for providing a wide range of health benefits. On the other hand, meditating can be a challenge to do correctly, especially when it comes to novices.
The latest idea to get better is to use psychedelics in tandem with meditation in therapeutic settings. The goal is to use psychedelics as the gateway to assist with exploring consciousness, improving concentration, and eventually arriving at the meditation experience.
People have been meditating with psychedelics safely for ages, and they can play a deep and profound role in accelerating the progression of your meditative practices. The following gives you some useful information about it and starts you on the journey of how to meditate with psychedelics.
Before meditating with psychedelics, it’s essential to know about meditation and its background. Frontiers in Psychology defines meditation as “a set of cognitive training techniques and practices that aim to monitor and regulate attention, perception, emotion and homeostasis.”
If you need resources that focus solely on meditation, any of the books released by his holiness, the Dalai Lama, is an excellent place to start. For putting it into practice, “The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation,” is good reading. Beginners interested in Yoga can also try out techniques with the “Yoga for Beginners” DVD or stream or create a watch party for “Yoga Meditation for Stress & Anxiety Relief.”
Yoga: An Overview
The development of meditation techniques has yielded more than 100 different varieties of it, including Yoga. Yoga originated in India over 5,000 years ago, and when it is practiced correctly, the gentle discipline provides some very well rounded benefits.
Siddhas are people that have achieved intense spiritual realization. Siddhas teach that Yoga is a way of living. They also teach that it helps cleanse your body, thoughts and soul of impurities. Meditation is a part of Yoga, and by practicing it, you can develop deep concentration and mental relaxation. In Yoga meditation, being aware of your breathing helps control thought processes, which completely relaxes the mind.
Yoga’s Trippy Beginnings
When it comes to who first used psychedelics in sacred ceremonies, it’s hard to pin it down since anthropologists have found mushroom iconography in structures all over the world. Many scholars ascribe to the theory that the Rig Veda and psychoactive plants played a role in the early days of the Yoga tradition. The Rig Veda is a sacred text used by Brahmans, who were members of the highest Hindu castes and priesthood members.
The Rig Veda and other sacred Indian texts say that Yogis were using a type of brew to bring on transcendence, a state of awareness or existence beyond the physical level. The holy text mentions that spiritual attainments could be derived through mantra and by consuming a concoction of sacred herbs.
The Many Flavors of Meditation
There are a growing number of studies on meditative practices from other philosophies besides Yogic. They come from many different spiritual traditions and cultures and include transcendental practices, Christian, shamanic and Sufi, to name a few.
However, the majority of scientific research on meditation focuses on techniques originating on Buddhism that originated in parts of Asia. Research on Buddhist tradition generally centers around the zen-ful subject of mindfulness meditation.
Psychedelics are Having a Moment
What do all the following studies have in common? If you are a psychedelic enthusiast and say that they are all studies you want to sign up for, you’d be right, but missing the point. The correct answer is that they are all either legitimate clinical studies that are using psychoactive substances or are administered by researchers for therapeutic use.
After a long hiatus following the counterculture movement of the 1960s, the stigma regarding psychedelic substances is being lifted. Psychiatrists, psychologists and scientists alike are conducting legitimate research using them.
Results from these studies indicate that psychedelics are very safe for treating an array of mental disorders in patients when trained health professionals in medical centers administer them. What’s more, the psychologists in the scientific study, Psychedelics, Meditation, and Self-Consciousness say, “The scientific study of meditation and psychedelic drugs has seen remarkable developments.”
The Dark Side and How to Resist it
“A medicine can be a poison and a poison can be a medicine.” ~ the Hindu scripture of the Bhagavad Gita.
While the subject of using contemplative practice and psychedelics often sounds enticing, these experiences are not usually helpful or enlightening when done recreationally, especially if you are really young.
Many variables influence the subjective effects of hallucinogens and meditation. Factors that affect the practice include the style of meditation, psychedelic and dosage used, as well as your personality traits and experience level.
Keeping that in mind, these drugs are very, very strong research chemicals. Taking the subject of psychedelics lightly as in cases of illicit entertainment reasons belittles them. Doing so can easily take them from “medicine” to “poison,” as described by the sacred scripture above.
Cultures used psychedelics in the past to further strengthen a member’s identity as part of his society and to facilitate better cohesion within the group. Fortunately, we can look to anthropologic records to judge how to use these sacred substances in the correct and safest ways.
Psilocybin: The Gateway to Meditation
Recently, the scientific study of meditation coupled with hallucinogens such as psilocybin, has seen groundbreaking progress. And, if you are still on the fence about whether your team psychedelic, meditation or both, take a gander at what a Yale University researcher said about doing them simultaneously.
Peter Addy, a founding member of the Yale Psychedelic Science Group, said results show, "psilocybin can be a gateway into meditation...to show you experiences and to have insight into yourself,"
Addy added that, of course, he isn’t suggesting that patients do mushrooms every day. Rather, he indicated that you could open up your mind through the use of psilocybin, and then use as necessary. He also stressed that the administration of the magic mushroom-derived drug should happen in a controlled setting.
A Yoga Instructor Takes a Mini Journey
As stressed previously, before embarking on your journey, it’s best to know a great deal about both psychedelics and meditation before attempting any contemplative travels.
According to Yoga Journal, experienced Yoga practitioners are exploring the potential role of psychedelics within Yoga practices as therapy. They sometimes add them to meditative sessions and mingle with like-minded people over “journey weekends.”
Maya Griffin* has been a yoga instructor for 20 years. She told the “Yoga Journal” that she took a “mini journey” when she first start using psychedelic drugs to prime herself for longer journey weekends. Griffin said she took the mini journey after a woman she befriended in yoga class recommended she do it.
The friend, Julia Miller,* shared details about her annual psychedelic weekends. She recommended that Griffin take one drug on one day to get a sense of what the journey would be like. Afterward, Miller reasoned, Griffin could decide if a longer trip was something she wanted to experience.
A few months before the official journey weekend took place, Griffin used magic mushrooms to take her mini journey. On pulling back the veil, Maya Griffin said,
“It felt really intentional. We honored the spirits of the four directions beforehand, a tradition among indigenous cultures, and asked the ancestors to keep us safe. I spent a lot of time feeling heavy, lying on the couch at first. Then, everything around me looked more vibrant and colorful. I was laughing hysterically with a friend. Time was warped.”
“At the end, I got what my friends would call a ‘download,’ or the kind of insight you might get during meditation. It felt spiritual in a way.”
*The names of the psychonauts have been changed to protect their identity.
Resources for Psychedelic Journeys
Before going on any psychedelic journey, it is vital to know about appropriate procedures for using psychoactive substances. To be fully informed, practitioners need to reference anthropologic records and modern literature written by experts in the subject to use these compounds safely.
The following resources are a good start, and they have treasure troves of helpful information.
Code of Ethics for Spiritual Guides Pamphlet by the Council on Spiritual Practices. You can write and send mail to them at the following: Box 460065, San Francisco, CA 94146-0065.
Six Steps to Psychedelic Meditation
Several thought leaders in the Buddhist community have been forthcoming about using psychedelics to better open up their mind to meditation. One of them is influencer and podcast host, Vincent Horn. Horn founded Buddhist Geeks with his wife Emily in 2006. For a decade, they taught people the way to enlightenment through Buddhist Geeks.
During the show’s run, Horn interviewed dozens of experts in mindfulness practice. He often discussed culture, Buddhist dharma, technology and journey retreats on the podcast, too. The couple has also been guests on celebrity host and psychonaut Joe Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience.
Regarding the confluence of psychedelics and meditation, Horn says,
“There is that general interest in exploring further reaches of one’s consciousness that is shared between the two disciplines, that unites them and, in some cases, connects them.”
“I recommend, to anyone who’s working with psychedelics, to also have some sort of practice of working with their own consciousness and attention. I think many do, from what I’ve seen.”
The following six steps are derived from Vincent Horn’s experiences. He recommends using specific steps to set up and experience the ceremony where sacrament and Buddhist meditation intersect. He says that the following steps get you where you want to be in terms of safety and grounding needed while attempting meditative clarity.
Step 1: Question Your Energy Levels
The energy in this sense means stamina, not the new age esoteric form of spirituality. Horn says before beginning the ceremony, you need to ask yourself if you have the “physical, mental, and emotional stamina to go through with this ceremony?”
You must be honest with yourself because if you are not adequately prepared and well-rested, you are setting yourself up for a colossal disappointment and subpar results.
Step 2: Set Up the Right Space
Space is the physical space you set up for the ceremony. Horn says that your space “should reflect the desired inner state it is intended to cultivate.”
Other helpful aspects include having a sacred altar and beautiful and clean surroundings. Participants can focus their attention on the sacred altar during the ceremony.
Step 3: Examine Deeper Intentions
Before participants take the sacrament, the moment is nigh to get philosophical. Ask deep, meaningful questions aside from the five W’s. Your line of questioning should examine deeper intentions.
Horn gives insight on this and says, “This phase is spent relaxing into the space we’ve created and contemplating why we’re here. And not just why we’re here, but why we’re really here!” Formalize this process by sharing it with a journey group or write it down. “Reviewing what you wrote down can also help etch it into your consciousness,” Horn adds.
4. Take the Sacrament
After connecting with and communicating intention as described in Step 3, it is time to get down to meditative business by taking the sacred sacrament. One definitive goal of consuming this sacred substance is for eliminating the false concept that there is anything in existence that is “not already sacred,” Horn points out.
Horn describes what the sacrament is saying, "Sacrament simply means a sacred substance, similar to how in some of the earliest Hindu texts cannabis was identified as one of their five sacred plants.”
Include a formal Buddhist sitting practice as part of the ceremony for about 30 to 60 minutes. Adjust that time based on the onset and total time of the effects. Horn says, “Once you have completed your formal practice period, you can feel free to move into a more formless type of practice.” Horn points out that doing so doesn’t equate to “just hanging out and playing out our habitual patterns.” He describes it as “a broadening of the understanding of what meditation is and what it includes.”
According to Horn, once this is completed, you can start to “relate to everything as meditation, in a more free form and spacious way.” He adds that “Our interactions and our spontaneously arising experiences become the meditation. Whatever we do is meditation, a fresh and unbounded way of relating to life.”
6. Close the Ceremony
Once you start to close the ceremony, the integration phase of the session starts, and you should commence this stage with some deliberation. Horn says, “This can include sharing new insights with a group or expressing gratitude for the journey, however fruitful, beautiful, or arduous it may have been.”
Vincent Horn discussed other ways the journey should formally end,
“Gratitude is the practice of recognizing what’s good. It breaks us from the spell of cynicism and shines a light on our unrecognized areas of privilege. Extinguishing a flame, dismantling an altar, or cleaning up ceremonial remnants can put a bookend on the experience, letting the mind and the soul know that, as one stage is complete, another has begun.”
We hope you enjoyed “How to Meditate with Psychedelics.” The information about psychonauts who use sacred plants to enhance the meditative experience and bring it to the next level is certainly exciting. However, this article barely scratches the surface of using meditation along with psychedelics. The key is to research, research and then research some more! In light of that, we encourage you to continue sharpening your meditative skills, while also boning up on the latest stories about psychedelic journeys.