“Relax and take three deep breaths,” my guide instructs. Then, bringing the pipe to my lips: “Now take in little bits of smoke…sips. When your lungs are full, just hold.”
Within seconds of that hold, the room and I dissolve into a vision.
On Entheogenic Medicine
5-MeO-DMT is a powerful psychedelic medicine. Derived from glandular secretions of the Sonoran-desert toad, Bufo Alvarius, it is in the category of psychedelics now called “entheogens.” These are substances, that, when ingested, produce non-ordinary states of consciousness. They can invoke a spiritual experience that many people report as a oneness with the universe, or communion with God.
I am in a dark, murky place. It’s unfamiliar, cave-like, subterranean. It’s hard to see. I am still aware of myself, but that sense of “I-ness” seems to be receding, becoming some kind of “witness” to whatever is happening.
One of the characteristics of 5-Meo is that the body processes it very quickly. Each experience lasts only 15-20 minutes—as opposed to journeys with LSD of psilocybin mushrooms, which can last for many hours. I quickly emerge from the murky cave and am back with my guide. He asks me what I saw; how it felt. “That was the ‘handshake round;’ a gentle re-introduction to the world you are about to enter,” my guide explains. A reintroduction, because I have taken this medicine before. It is powerful indeed. The gentle reminder was much appreciated.
I sit up on the bed again. Three deep breaths. Relax; then sip, sip on the pipe, and hold.
I am back in the vision, in the same subterranean space; the witness recedes further and the boundary between me and all that is not me, dissolves. The darkness clears enough for me to become aware of a door. It is closed and secured with an old lock, petrified and rusty. I understand intuitively that the crusted lock is my heart: many times wounded, and constricted with layers of scar tissue
An interesting quality of 5-Meo is the sequential nature of the experience it induces. It’s like waking up from a dream, then going back to sleep and returning to exactly the same place from which you awakened. There is this idea that one should “set one’s intentions” before a journey; that this will help you to focus on the “work” you have assigned yourself in your conscious mind. But this is folly. The medicine knows better. It’s precise. It takes you to where you need to be.
I go back in again, for a third journey. I have to get through the door. I am prepared to hack away at the rusted lock. “It may be a painful process,” my guide advises.
I am in front of the door, prepared to push my way through, when it simply opens, without even a touch. There’s a passage into diffuse light, a sharp contrast to the murky darkness behind. In fact, the concept of “behind me” ceases to exist; my being is wholly a part of the surrounding space, within and without me, fully present. There is a fleeting awareness of figures, structures; buildings, perhaps; familiar yet vague. There is a sense of floating, weightless. Even the witness is gone. But is that possible?
How real is “reality?”
Is what we see under the influence of 5-MeO real or a mere hallucination–chemical and bioelectrical projections from the deepest recesses of our mind/brains? Or is waking life as we perceive it only a narrow vision of what is possible, a thin slice of awareness? We know that our perception is based upon and limited by our neuro-chemistry; and 5-Meo radically alters that chemistry, opening worlds of perception unavailable to our ordinary consciousness. It can lift the veil of our default perceptions, revealing worlds that exist alongside the one we have agreed to call “reality.”
I am back in the room. The figures and structures are gone. “I” (or what remains of “me”) has merged into the pure light that lay beyond the locked door. Floating in space, I am one with the All, absorbed into the light of cosmic consciousness. Am I alive or dead? Is there any real difference? There is no fear, no anxiety in this vision; only light.
As I emerge from this fourth journey, the room around me comes back into focus. My guide is sitting beside me. Breathing slowly and calmly, I describe where I have been, what I have seen.
Fortunately, my guide is well versed in indigenous medicine traditions, as well as in various Eastern cosmologies like Buddhism and Hinduism. The state of pure light that I found myself in, he says, sounded like Samadhi: “a state,” according to Britanica.com, “of profound and absorptive contemplation of the absolute, undisturbed by desire, anger or any other ego-generated thought or emotion; a state of joyful calm in which one still maintains one’s full mental alertness and acuity.” It is said that Samadhi, a realm of white light, is the place one enters right before physical death.
Yes, that sounds just about right!
Who and what am I?
But what did this all mean for me, being back in my body/mind, bound by my ego? (And how quickly the self reasserts itself.) With my journey at an end, an answer emerges
I have spent most of my life in my head, powering through problems, using reason as my tool. But this has also been my defense: thinking to avoid feeling. My brain “muscle” is well-developed–but for too long I have ignored my heart. And like any muscle, that is not exercised, the heart can atrophy. It can become fibrotic and calcified; hardened and impenetrable. But the path to enlightenment runs through the heart, not the head. And the key to unlock the hearts door is surrender; softening our grasping hold on the illusions of separation from all that surrounds us. These physical bodies that we occupy are temporary residences, congealed energies that flow back into the cosmic sea as our bodies finally die back into earthen dust.
As I lay back in the bed, I thank the medicine for revealing who and what I am: the light of pure consciousness, a radiance without beginning or end.
Dr. Ricky Fishman has been a San Francisco based chiropractor since 1986. In addition to the treatment of back pain and other musculoskeletal injuries, he works as a consultant in the field of health and wellness with companies dedicated to re-visioning health care for the 21st century. He is the founder of the health news and information website, Condition: Health News That Matters.[email protected] www.rickyfishman.com