High expectations ruin the party once again
It’s been about three months since I laid down, blindfolded with a stomach full of mushrooms in pursuit of answering the Big Questions we all have about life.
For weeks I tried to articulate my biggest takeaways. I tried to put into words what the experience was like and what significant insights I gained. I wrote page after page about how I meditated deeper than I ever had and that it was an incredible and powerful experience. But I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what I learned. I had no idea what to tell people who wanted to know about the experience. I started comparing my experience to that of others and felt I somehow did it wrong.
It wasn’t my first experience with mushrooms, but it was the first time I paid a professional to guide me through the experience. The “ceremony” as my guides called it, consisted of a full day of guided and unguided meditation, breathwork, shadow work, and time in nature. The experience was facilitated by a couple I met who host medicinal ceremonies like these for people hoping to have a more intentional trip and answer specific questions.
The day went a little bit like this:
We talked about my expectations for the experience. I shared how I was feeling and what I wanted to achieve. Most of my intentions involved finding clarity around a lot of the mental blocks I was feeling. Some major themes included confidence and self-trust and how to navigate completely changing a human being. Easy questions to answer, right?
After the intention setting, we did some breathwork realign my thoughts and start the actual trip. Deep breathing, holding the breath, and some Wim Hof-style exercises helped me feel more connected to my mind and relaxed in my body. I was most excited to merge breathwork — something I’ve regularly been practicing — with the mushrooms. Breathwork itself is extremely powerful, so I had high expectations.
Taking the medicine
We thanked the earth and the plant for the medicine it would provide and expressed gratitude for the privilege of consuming it. I chewed up the pile of dried mushrooms and washed it down with some cacao.
The next four to eight hours were a blur of psilocybin-fueled meditation. I put on a blindfold and laid down on a yoga mat for what felt like 20 minutes. While I tripped, the guides played music, guided meditations, and preformed some reiki.
When I took the blindfold off, it was 4 hours later, and the sun was setting. I went outside to spend some time in nature. I journaled and watched an army of ants transport a dead beetle into their underground chamber.
The day ended the day with a few more hours of breathwork and meditation.
I can finally admit that the most prominent theme of the trip was mental resistance. Instead of just succumbing and letting it happen, the narrative in my mind was, “Is this working? Do I feel anything? I don’t think this is working. I feel the same.”
My journal entries during the trip felt forced and inauthentic. Like I was just saying what I thought my guides would want me to say. I so badly wanted to feel clarity and relief that I told myself that if I kept saying it, I would actually feel it. But I didn’t. Instead, I felt guilty for lying about my real feelings about the experience. I also felt like I didn’t try hard enough to embrace the experience and a bit of shame for expecting it to provide with me linear answers to questions of my existence.
I questioned the potency of my dose and felt discouraged at my lack of mind-bending thoughts. I didn’t have the courage to express that I didn’t think whatever we were trying to accomplish was working. I didn’t feel more clear or awakened. I felt the same.
I didn’t achieve a moment of enlightenment, have a big ah-a moment, or immediately write down my million dollar idea. But it was intense. I thought a lot. I questioned a lot. I was in my mind a lot. But it felt more like a vortex. The trip happened, and then it was over, and I felt the same. I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t feel the same as I did when we started. I had this vision of awakening and looking in the mirror and barely recognizing the person I was. I envisioned myself opening Pandora’s box of all of my greatest hopes and fears. I wanted to feel changed, but I didn’t.
My one big insight
The biggest realization of the trip came from how I viewed the experience. I was waiting for some sort of hooded figure to appear before me and tell me the answers to all of the questions I’ve been asking. I wanted to hear a voice saying, “this is what you need to do, and here is how you do it,” or a sign to tell me which event in my life led me down the path to where I am. But that would have been too easy. And “easy” doesn’t create life-changing moments.
Psychedelics are often pitched as a life hack. As “eight years worth of therapy in one day” or a version of such. But realistically, change doesn’t come from one big mindblowing moment. It’s a result of a bunch of little moments that culminate in you being more aware of your thoughts and consciousness.
I was looking for answers that either a) don’t really exist, and b) I already know, but don’t trust myself enough to embrace as my truth. I already know what I need to do, and there isn’t going to be anyone or anything that will tell me when or how to do it. I have to trust myself and just do it. I got more answers from reflecting on my lack of enthusiasm than I did from the drugs themselves, which to me, made the experience worth it.
It wasn’t negative by any means, which is a huge win considered the darkness many other people experience using psychedelics. So whether or not it was because the dose was too low, I was too in my head, or my expectations were too high, the answers took a different form than what I expected.
It was just another instance of being urged to trust the journey, let go of expectations, and relinquish control.