BEST OF THE NUMINOUS 2018

This year rocked us to our personal and collective cosmic cores. From sex tarot 101 to the future of masculinity, our Best of the Numinous 2018 charts the course …

Photo: NordWood Themes

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1// Spread ‘Em: Sex Tarot 101: Alessandra Calderin gave us a crash course in casting cards between the sheets …

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2// Healing From Trauma With Psychedelics: Psychiatrist Will Siu, MD, shared insights into a very human way to heal …

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3// How To Work With Your Lilith Sign: Rebecca Farrar’s astrological guide led us back to our unbreakable inner wildness, during a year when we needed it most …

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4// Is Visiting Mexico City’s Sonora Market Spiritual Appropriation?: During a journey of spiritual self-discovery, Danielle Dorsey shared why she decided not to visit the famously witchy landmark …

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5// How Body Positivity Can Unlock Your Intuition: After a lifetime of food issues, Jillian Murphy discovered that living fully in her own skin was the key to her magic …

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6// Work Your Saturn Sign & Feel Solid As A Rock: As Saturn transited its home turf of Capricorn, this astro guide helped us harness our biggest growth opportunities …

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7// Coming Home To My Hoodoo Roots: Growing up British but with her family history in Mauritius, Stephanie Victoire’s journey to reconnect with her Hoodoo roots finally led her home …

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8// Why Radical Dharma Is Your 2018 ‘Must Read’: This incomparable text tapped eradicating systemic racism as THE healing issue of our times …

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9// Holy F*ck: How To Reach EcstasyAlexandra Roxo revealed that experiencing ecstasy is the key to strengthening our channel …

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10// How To Explain Your Spiritual Awakening To Your Religious Family: In a deeply polarizing climate, Fundamentalist turned Now Ager, Kate Forristall, gave us a primer in navigating the spiritual-religious divide …

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11// What Is The Future of Masculinity?: As we grappled with how to dismantle patriarchal oppression, trans man and diversity and inclusion activist, Aaron Rose, shared his vision for the future of masculinity …

HOLY F*CK: HOW TO REACH ECSTASY

Want to have Divine on speed dial? In her latest Holy F*ck column, Alexandra Roxo reveals that experiencing ecstasy is the key to strengthening our channel …

People have been seeking ecstasy for a long time. Whether it’s through herbs and psychoactive and psychedelic substances, or through ritual, prayer, meditation, fasting, sleep deprivation, pain, sex, and extreme temperature baths, most cultures have rituals and celebrations that invoke deeply ecstatic states.

From Greek rituals involving mind-altering substances, to the Sufis’ dance into ecstatic bliss, and the tantrikas’ journey into oceans of “samadhi” (ecstatic union with God/Goddess), religious texts usually speak of this search. In Norse mythology, the berserkers would enter into an altered state to be able to fight. And even animals have sought out herbs and fermentation that brought about some sort of consciousness shift.

These exercises can allll produce states of BLISS that allow the participant to commune with “God” or the Divine. And, well, who wouldn’t want that? 

I’ll tell you who! A culture that DOES NOT want its people to be empowered to know the Divine on our own terms. That would prefer us to have to pay into the Divine via tithing (offerings), and bow to the leaders of a church. This being one of the epic reasons WHY ecstatic states became stigmatized in the U.S., specifically, and in the Western world in general.

Personally, I blame the Puritans for labelling seeking ecstatic states as scary, transgressive, or somehow shameful. If people, and women especially, had the Goddess on speed dial, than what would they need the church for?!! SO, they got the ax. Or rather, in the case of the Witch trials, when women would dance themselves into states of ecstasy, the noose.

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What exactly is an “ecstatic” experience? 
In my terms, it is an experience that overrides the default mindset, the internal and external conditioning, and allows for a mind/body/spirit connection that transcends the normal, the typical, and the everyday.

This can result in waves of bliss, with senses ablaze and alive, heart open to a massive flow of love. Where the normal perception and experience of reality is transcended and expanded into a massively blissful, joyful, and loving one that shakes you at the core.

I’ve been exploring this for many years. At age 12, I was attempting to speak in tongues and faint on the floor at Baptist Church camp. And I experienced my first waves of sexual ecstasy around the same time. Since then, I’ve experimented with meditation, prayer, fasting, ritual, dance, song, pain, sex, and psychedelics. Each produces a different type of ecstasy.

Now, I take other people on journeys in my work through ecstatic states that can reframe and contextualize trauma, release stored emotions, and promote a deeper connection to self. Within a safe space, this process of finding ecstatic states can be very, very healing. 

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A dating app for ecstasy? 
I am drawn like a fly on honey to people who know and experience ecstatic states without drugs.

A few years ago, I met two men who had participated in the Sundance ceremony, which involved piercings on the chest, and days of dancing and fasting. To me, these were the HOTTEST men alive! “Um, you spent multiple days with flesh wounds on your chest while fasting and dancing and singing, in the name of uniting with Divine energy and helping save the Earth?! Sign me up!!!”

There is nothing sexier to me than someone who sees and understands the value of finding ecstatic states on the regular without having to pop a pill. Someone so adept at meditation that turning their body to light is NBD. If there was a dating app for this category of human, it would make my life a lot easier!

It’s not Burner vibes. It’s not adventures with psychedelics. I’m talking about people with a thirst for ecstasy that comes from wanting to know the Divine. Wanting to know love. From a remembrance of a state that your soul knows, and longs for.

Anybody else with me on this one?

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5 paths towards ecstasy for the Modern Spiritual Human
**A disclaimer: When you enter into ecstasy, you are opening yourself up massively, so you want to allow for this shift in your reality, perception, and internal state to happen in a safe setting. If you enter into an ecstatic state in a train station for instance, you could get taken away to a mental institution. So set and setting are key! You want be in a safe space. Surrounded by people you trust. Or alone. Remember you are opening ALL the channels and you want to do this with care. Especially if you are new to it.

1// Start simply. If you want to start safely, you can explore ecstatic states through something simple like chanting or ecstatic dance. Many cities have “Ecstatic Dance” communities and classes. Places with DJs and it’s sober and you just shake it out.

If you’re a yogi, chanting mantras in Kirtan could produce these states. You can seek a Bhakti yoga practice. Many cultures and religions have their own styles of song, and some may take you into ecstasy. Some not. When I used to go to the Agape Church in LA, their gospel choir had me in tears and I sang and danced til I lost myself.

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2// Explore your blocks. 
Because it can take years to release your default programming and open to the ecstasy available through song and dance, many people reach for a psychedelic or drug—because it offers a quick way in! But that also means it may have the most emotional, spiritual, and physical hangover, since you are literally stretching into an expanded state very quickly, flooding your body, and then snapping out fast.

You can micro dose different plant medicines if you want to go slowly. But beware; before you are granted ecstasy, you will likely first be shown any blocks you have to ecstasy! If you take MDMA, for instance, you may be opened quickly, but will likely be asked to deal with some spiritual and mystical pain the day after from that flood of chemicals and expansion, and the ensuing lack thereof.

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3// Ease in with meditation.
It may take years before you get to ecstasy this way, but it will happen. Trust me! I’ve been meditating for 15 years and it happens often now. I feel like I am being made love to by an invisible force (consensual of course!) and it is amazing.

If you want to reach ecstatic states in meditation and not wait 10 years, you can try White Tantra or a Vipassana retreat. Both are in-depth practices and you’re likely to access ecstasy faster. But no guarantees of course!

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4// Get it on (consciously).
If you establish trust, a deep connection, and emotional and physical safety, you can achieve insane ecstatic states with sex. Again though, if you open too fast, without a safe container and the spiritual and emotional components, you will suffer the repercussions. Chances are, you will feel depressed, anxious and shitty for days after. Perhaps you will feel guilt and shame as well.

Conscious BDSM is an amazing way into ecstasy in a safe space. Set the intention to open to the Divine before you begin. Japanese rope bondage and suspension work in particular has taken me to great heights of ecstasy, and I led two retreats last year that took women into that space for transcendence, ecstasy, and healing.

Pain can be a tried and true portal to ecstasy. Again, within a safe container, an intense consensual pain session with spanking or flogging or whipping or caning can produce deep and ecstatic bliss. Some religious sects also used pain as a portal to divine and ecstatic bliss. Light spankings are a safe place to start!

You can also start a self-pleasure practice that opens you to ecstasy. It will take time. Practice. A safe space so you can let go and scream and cry and release. At dinner the other night with my two besties, I was talking about my magical rose quartz wand and the orgasmic bliss I have with it, and their jaws dropped. It’s profound!

Japanese “Shibari” rope bondage

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5// Remember that integration is KEY.
Integration means the time you take in between practices to process, rest, release, and allow your system to recalibrate. If you mix drugs and sex and pain and all of it you may go into wild ecstasy, but have a “WTF did I just do?!” the next day, feeling like you got hit by a train.

Unless you have stretched yourself internally to hold some levels of ecstasy over time, you will fuck with yourself psychologically, spiritually, emotionally and physically if you rush things. Seriously. I’ve learned this the hard way.

If you don’t have the skills or tools to integrate ecstatic experience into your life, you can blow a fuse, go back to exactly where you were before, or contract even smaller. But if you integrate your experience fully, you can allow the ecstatic experience to expand you. And you can STAY expanded, therefore experiencing levels of ecstasy OFTEN.

Begin by simply noticing when you feel ECSTATIC and take note. Breathe it in. Don’t zip by. As you notice, your capacity will grow. As you practice, you will stretch into holding more.

Rest. Be gentle on you. You’re re-teaching your system that’s its safe to feel this good. After centuries of being told that IT IS NOT. Write. Journal. Take salt baths.

Start slowly, but be diligent and don’t give up on finding this KEY and GIFT to your human system!!

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Stay tuned for more Holy F*ck from Alexandra. Over the next few months, she will be interviewing women who learned how to access deep healing and ecstatic states during her yearlong program. Learn more about Alexandra and her work HERE.

HEALING FROM TRAUMA WITH PSYCHEDELICS

Psychiatrist Will Siu, MD, is an advocate for healing from trauma from psychedelics. Currently a therapist on clinical trials using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD, he shares his insights into a very human way to heal …

When we think about trauma, we often go straight to war, physical, or sexual abuse. But as important, are the traumas of neglect, of feeling un-safe, of feeling un-loved. People think: “I don’t deserve to say, ‘I’ve suffered trauma’. But that’s BS. All of us have suffered numerous traumas in our lives.

When this trauma is unhealed and unresolved, this manifests as suffering—in our bodies and in our beings. And so we find strategies to cope. Depending on our genetic make-up, our family history, and our place in society, this might look like a cluster of symptoms that we call OCD, PTSD, or addiction. I don’t think about these as disorders. They are simply what our body and mind are doing to try to protect us. There’s nothing wrong with us—these symptoms just show us that there is a trauma to be healed.

We’ve been throwing medication at this for years, and it doesn’t work. When it comes to mental health, Western medicine has seen most success with SSRIs like Prozac for treating depression, for example. But they only work slightly better than a placebo. It’s silly when physicians say this is the answer.

In contrast, the data from trials on MDMA for PTSD, psilocybin for alcoholism, psilocybin for end of life anxiety, and MDMA for social anxiety, is better than anything else we’ve seen for mental health. But there’s still a lot of resistance to integrating these therapies, which I believe stems from a fear of these being dangerous or addictive drugs.

I also want to emphasize that the studies being done are using these substances to facilitate the psychotherapy process. It’s not the molecules themselves that are doing the healing. Rather, they are assisting the interpersonal healing process that we call “psychotherapy.”

When it comes to healing trauma, I think of the concept of “catharsis”—and old psychology term for the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. And three things need to happen for our bodies and our minds to release us from our traumas. There is a need for the intellectual memory of the trauma to be coupled with the emotional memory of it, and for this to happen in an empathic setting. Empathy is different from sympathy, when we might hear: “oh, that must have been hard for you.” It’s about really feeling that the person in front of you understands your experience. In many cases with empathy, there isn’t even a need for words.

What you’ll notice in my recipe for catharsis is that psychedelics are not in the equation. That a therapist is not in the equation. That a shaman in white linen a warehouse in Brooklyn is not in the equation. This is because we’re capable of doing this work by nature of us being human. Not that these things can’t be helpful, but thinking that one or more of these modalities themselves is going to heal you, is a mistake.

I believe that because of the way that Western culture has developed—with the breakdown of community, the breakdown of family—we’ve created the need for mental health professionals. It is possible to do this work on our own. When people are trained, there is a higher chance of healing the deepest wounds, but I don’t think it’s necessary. There are people who’ve been doing underground therapy for a long time—not that everybody does it well, including people who are trained to do psychedelic therapy. The key is to trust yourself and the way you feel when you are working with someone.

A psychiatrist named Stan Grof, who was friends with Albert Hoffman, who discovered LSD, has said: “The full experience of a negative emotion is the funeral pyre of that emotion.” This is an important way to think about healing from trauma. With psychedelic therapy, we’re talking about enhancing “negative” emotions and memories, whereas the Western approach has focused on suppressive therapies. Look at the categories of medications we use: anti-depressants. Anti-anxiety meds. We’re really doing the opposite of trying to feel every emotion through to its “funeral pyre.”

Western medicine and psychiatry are not to blame for this. It’s also an approach that represents our culture and where we are as a society. The emotions that we tend to suppress are sadness and fear. Interpersonally, and in self-help memes on social media, they’re thought of as signs of weakness. Something to be ashamed of, as if there’s something wrong with us for feeling or expressing them. I think the way we treat them medically is a result of this cultural treatment of them. Emotions like joy and anger, meanwhile, are very, very acceptable. We need to shift this if we’re going to do any real healing.

Using psychedelics as part of the Western medicine approach in doing this work is also going to take a change in society. These are evocative therapies. They’re the opposite of suppressive therapies. They evoke emotions, they evoke memories, they evoke physical symptoms. Hopefully in an environment that is conducive to healing. The term “set and setting,” coined by Timothy Leary in 1961, speaks to where you’re at personally, who are you with, and what is the physical space like. All of these elements have an impact on your overall experience.

Of course, some of these consciousness altering molecules can also be used to escape from our problems, including ketamine, marijuana, alcohol, MDMA, and nicotine. Again, it comes back to set and setting as to whether these things can be helpful or harmful. I’m also not saying these substances can’t be used for recreation, for fun, for creativity. We just need to not be fooling ourselves when we’re trying to do healing work with them.

The final piece I want to mention is integration. People aren’t focusing enough on this part of psychedelic healing, which I think of as the work that is done in the days, weeks, and months after the experience itself. In my opinion, the majority of the long-term benefits of psychedelic therapy is in the sober work that follows.

Real bravery doesn’t come from taking a third of fourth cup of ayahuasca, or five or six tabs of acid. It’s really about going back to work the following week and seeking to make peace with the coworker that irritates you. It could be calling a sibling you haven’t spoken to in nine months because you felt they aren’t as “enlightened” as you, and choosing to love them anyway. These healing interactions are truly where we find the long-term benefits of this work.

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Will Siu, MD , DPhil, studied medicine at UCLA, the National Institute of Health in Washington DC, and Oxford University. In addition ton addition to his private practice in NYC, he is a therapist on clinical trials using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD. Learn more about Will and his work HERE and follow him on Instagram.

DIARY OF AN EGO DEATH ON LSD

Facing a major life meltdown, Sam Lam was ready to turn herself inside out. Little did she know, her first LSD trip would lead to the experience of ego death …

Photo: Frida Aguilar Estrada

I’d majored in philosophy in college, studied metaphysics, epistemology, and even endured a stint in theology. But despite the multitude of theoretical expeditions I’ve taken into human consciousness, nothing could have prepared me  for the acid trip that led to me experiencing the much-documented “ego death.”

By age 30, I’d burnt out in my career as a Business Development Manager for a multi-national oil and gas company. So I did what any self-respecting women worthy of her prized Louboutins would do: I jacked in that job, packed my (many) bags and boarded a flight to ‘La La Land’ to pursue a career in fashion.

As if this identity crisis wasn’t enough, a couple of months prior I’d discovered that my now ex-husband of almost 10 years was having an affair. Needless to say, I was a total emotional-fucking-wreck. A 30-something divorcée with a fresh “Monroe” lip piercing, I soon found myself trying to heal my shattered heart by reliving my hard-partying youth.

Cut to me raging it up at a major music festival. I’d never taken LSD before that night, but in the sweltering heat of the desert, as the hot, orange sun began to dip, I decided to drop.

I felt very little at first. Twenty, maybe thirty minutes passed and by this point I was eager to rush to the front of the main stage and offer my metallic flash-tattooed body as a sacrifice to the music now engulfing me. I just wanted to dance. Dance all my life’s pain away.

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This was death, I felt certain of it … 
It’s not really possible to describe what happened next. Before I could even begin to move in the direction of the stage, I took one glance at the illuminated festival Ferris wheel swirling ahead and the acid hit my brain like a bolt of lightning.

In that instant all of my senses merged. I could taste sounds, smell the music, and literally see my feelings.

This was death, I felt certain of it. The world as I knew it disappeared, and while I could no longer feel my body, my mind got busy imagining my demise in vivid, graphic, Technicolor.

Gory, violent, blood curdling. Vicious ends that felt oh too real. At one point I was hit by a steam-train in the middle of the desert. The next I was being eaten alive by rattle snakes. Next, I was a victim to the desert sun as its rays pierced my skin and melted my flesh to the bone. I then tried to write an (imaginary) letter to my family to apologize for giving up and going out in such a shameful way, but I literally couldn’t find the words to express how deeply sorry I was.

Then came a silence. A complete and utter black quiet in my head. It was a peaceful moment where I was truly thinking “nothing” at all (if that’s possible). A temporary respite from that torment that followed.

Photo: Kelly Malloy

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I could feel the world weep … 
Nothing can prepare you for “Ego Death”—the term is used in various, intertwined contexts to describe a fundamental transformation in the psyche, where we lose the self entirely. The words “I,” “me,” “myself” lose all meaning whatsoever.

This is what I experienced next, and it altered my life forever.

I could feel the pain of the entire Universe. Immense and immeasurable, agonizing torture. Quite literally, I felt for both a split second and an eternity, the utter, agonizing grief of every single man, woman, child, animal, tree, the oceans, and the skies.

I felt the Universe inside of me and all of its desperate misery. I could feel the world weeping.

A the Universe sobbed, my sense of self had completely and utterly vanished into it. “I” no longer existed. “I” no longer related to anything. It was as if I had become “dark matter,” as theorized in quantum physics—”I” was empty space. Nothing.

I woke up the next morning on the floor of my hotel room, with my festival uniform intact (bikini top, denim shorts, misappropriated tribal feathers). The desert was still in my hair and I had no memory of how I’d gotten home.

As my eyes slowly opened and the speckles of light danced into my retinas, I realized I was still alive. “Samantha” had survived her first (and probably one and only) acid trip. But something fundamental had changed …

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Had I melted my brain? 
The trip had been so intense, I was left fearing the worst. For months I worried that I had in fact melted my brain. I was no longer draw to “partying” as a way to dance out my demons. What can I say, the world just isn’t the same after you’ve “died.” Nothing seemed to make sense anymore.

Four months after the trip, I was severely depressed and still trying to make sense of my marriage breakdown, my scattered career choices, and this extraordinary experience. One afternoon, I found myself all alone in my apartment.

I was lying on my bed ugly crying, with blood-shot puffy eyes and chapped lips, and the what felt like the weight of my woes making it difficult for me to breath. I was then gripped with an urge to step out onto the balcony of my pokey apartment to get some fresh air. As I stood out on that balcony staring at the cloudless blue expanse of sky, I could have sworn I heard a voice in my head:

“You have felt my pain, now let me take yours,” said what I can only sensibly identify as The Universe.

In that instant I felt a warm calmness encircle me, as if I’d been injected with a large dose of MDMA. Yet this was an instant, drug-free Nirvana. The voice signaled that it was going to take away my suffering and pain, and transform it into something positive, pleasurable, maybe even beautiful.

In that moment, everything in my life just seemed to make total and absolutely succinct sense. I understood that I was designed to contain light and dark energy—to be the embodiment of Yin and Yang. I wanted to kiss my pain. Without it, I wouldn’t have embarked on this journey. I wouldn’t have had the courage to push my body beyond its physical and mental limits. I would have remained spiritually asleep.

The author

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The comedown … 
My life has since returned to “normal.” But my Ego Death experience has led to notable changes to my outlook.

I’ve drawn relationships into my life that are supportive and calm but also fun. I laugh more. My current partner lets me fully be myself. And I’ve found friendships circles with likeminded creatives and artists who are interested in alchemy and alternative modalities.

After these experiences, it’s been hard to return to the corporate world. Climbing the ladder no longer appeals to me. And though I haven’t quite found my niche, I’m figuring it out. I know somehow I’m supposed to be here in L.A … that something drew me here.

Most importantly, I’m more eco-conscious and aware of how my choices are impacting the future of the planet (after all, I had felt the whole world sobbing). I still love fashion, but I am no longer her slave, and have lost the desire to consume in the way I used to. And while organized religion is still not something I identify with, I’ve become intrigued by esoteric and alternative spiritual modalities.

What learned about a connected global consciousness is well documented elsewhere—an open-minded outlook that’s especially relevant in our current era of regressive, right-wing politicking.

After all, in the words of ethnobotanist and mystic Terence McKenna: “If the words life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the ‘Declaration of Independence’ isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.”

I certainly don’t believe that drugs are the only path to experiences such as mine. But surely to muse and ask “why?”—or to protest “WTF?”—is an innate part of the human experience. How else can we pursue the kind of evolutionary advancements I may have accidentally stumbled on during my long, bizarre, and deadly dark night of ego death?

Born and raised in the North East of Scotland to an Irish/Scottish mother and Chinese father and having travelled the world in her previous career, Sam Lam is an L.A based creative who spends her time writing, consulting, styling, modeling and collaborating with brands to produce visual content.

SPIRITUAL SHROOMING: MY UNLIKELY AWAKENING

Strung out on repressed feelings, a health crisis and mental break became an unexpected awakening for Meg Hartley, care of some spiritual shrooming…

“During my four-day break with the mundane, I connected to a bigger part of myself, which also happened to feel like an infinitely more stable part of myself”—Meg Hartley 

When I was 19, I wasn’t in a good place. I had lost my mother to suicide four years prior, and my once-successful “smashing down” of feelings had relentlessly resurfaced into every part of my consciousness.

I usually avoided the pain by staying busy all day, then intoxicated into the evening via copious amounts of marijuana or whatever else was floating around the dorms: ‘shrooms, ecstasy, and lots and lots of cheap alcohol.

But late at night, when I’d try my hardest to sleep and fail miserably, I couldn’t hide from the pain. I had taken to scratching at my skin until it bled because it hurt less than the storm that wailed inside. It was like there was so much unprocessed pain my mind didn’t know where to start. Agonizing thoughts just whipped around in my head, out of control and going nowhere.

I’d soon learn about meditation and mindfulness, which gave me a life raft to embrace during these times. But before then, I’d go home to Alaska for summer break and have a four-day experience a psychologist called a “mental break” and a philosophy teacher called “a preview to awakening.”

But to me, it simply felt like a very long dream that showed me true happiness was a real possibility … even for me, which seemed impossible at the time. This set the scene for my subsequent spiritual exploration and gave me a reason to commit to my emotional healing.

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The year was 2002. My first year of philosophy classes in college had finally given form and texture to vague spiritual ideas I’d always had intuitive knowings about. The ideas that this life is an illusion, that humanity is currently experiencing a shift in consciousness, and that we’re each here to learn specific things, were presented by different religions and philosophers from all over the world.

This deja vu sense of remembering (that my teacher said was normal, but which sure felt like magic to me!) combined with all the partying left me ungrounded, spacey, and generally disinterested in “mundane” everyday life. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I also had a B12 deficiency that was hitting mental health symptom levels. In addition to this, there was a cyst growing on my pineal gland, which is known to augment spiritual experiences.

And so, not yet privy to the drawbacks of being ungrounded, and unaware of this explosive combination brewing in my brain, I celebrated my return home by eating yet more ‘shrooms with a dear friend.

The experience of taking psilocybin is different for everyone, but in my experimental days it was something that I regarded with reverence––like a really fun church. During every trip, the idea of “God” or a benevolent bigger something, seemed obvious and present to me. There was silliness and hilarity, but also times where I would leave my friends to go sit with my favorite tree for hours, my head filled with streaming thoughts that were ontological in nature- the answers to all of life’s big questions, more ideas I’d later study in ancient texts.

And this time, for four days after the mushroom trip ought to have ended, my thoughts remained consistently in the ontological realm––a far cry from my daily headscape at the time, which was mostly centered around losing my v-card and being “too fat.” 

In stark contrast, everything I encountered had meaning on top of meaning, and life felt so beautiful that I cried happy tears. From the inside, the experience felt like a blissful and meditative state where therapeutic dreams met real life. Colors became more vibrant as I released dark twisted pains from deep within like a long and satisfying belch.

Meg with a handmade lithograph about her experience

Of course, it’s not “normal” to weep from joy at the sight of a mountain that’s there every damn day, or to stare at everyday items babbling about “the language of the Universe” and “signs.”

Everyone in my world thought I had lost my marbles. When I finally noticed this reaction in others, I very suddenly snapped out of it, shocked at their concern and upset about making an ass of myself. That clouded my vision of the experience, as social acceptance was the form of surrender I was most familiar with at the time. But I now look back on it as being as helpful as it was hugely bizarre: the juice was totally worth the squeeze (it can be freeing sometimes to have people think you’re a little nuts, anyhoo!) 

I was immediately changed, and the depression didn’t return for many years (not until my B12 levels hit a fantastic new low and a whole new set of challenges revealed themselves). It was like I had been dusted from the inside out, I felt clear and centered in a way that I had never experienced. I carried on with the drug experimentation for a couple more years and nothing like that happened again- something that brought both great relief and a fleeting sense of disappointment.

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During my four-day break with the mundane, I connected to a bigger part of myself, which also happened to feel like an infinitely more stable part of myself.

And that connection––and many times just the memory of that connection—brought a cherished light into the darkest nights of my soul. It also provided the motivation for my subsequent spiritual and emotional journeys: remembering that mental landscape, and knowing that if I stayed on the spiritual path then that sense of peace and connectedness would eventually feel like home.

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Meg Hartley is an Alaskan artist and writer happily replanted in wonderfully weird Portland, Oregon. She loves really great trees, cashew ice “cream”, mysticism, and is totally obsessed with mindfulness. Her new book is called How I Lost All My Fucksa one-month experience that will have you losing all yours! Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  

GODDESS TRIP: DIARY OF A PSYCHEDELICS ADDICT

And almost ten years sober, her experiences inform her work as a healer to this day, says former psychedelics addict Jesse Heid.

Jesse Heid celebrating her 39th birthday earlier this year

My six siblings and I grew up in what I can only describe as a mellow and small Christian cult, created by my parents. Their worship centered around a Buddha-Christ figure and I took it very literally when they taught me, ‘Jesus lives in your heart.’ To me, Jesus was the most gorgeous, the most beautiful hunky guy. I had that classic ’70’s portrait of him on my bedroom wall, the one where he’s sexy Jesus with the beard.

I had always felt that I was Christ’s favorite kid. I really thrived on the sense I developed early on that I was sacred and Beloved to the Divine. He did everything with me, ballet classes and tea parties. He also was also the compassionate witness to all my childhood traumas. As a result, I had a very intimate, loving, and positively romantic relationship to the Divine.

But when I first altered my consciousness with marijuana around age 21, I started to hear a new voice guiding that Divine dialog, and it was the voice of a woman. This Great Feminine presence was the raddest experience of my life. Beyond words, beyond what I could describe as Love and Wisdom. When I started using various psychedelics and entheogens this Divine female voice took on a great authority – such authority, it made Jesus look like your super casual, chill best friend.

Goddess I call her, and her voice commands deep loving RESPECT. And, while in hallucinogenic and other altered states, I was in constant dialog with her. Mostly her talking to me while I tripped on this miraculous communion with her.

Although I certainly partied, I was intentionally using psychedelics and plant medicine as sacraments. I didn’t necessarily differentiate the “party” from what others call “temple” or “ritual.” Basically, I was in it for the transcendent, mystical experiences. And while I experienced deep healing on my adventures, of course this way of exploring consciousness can have tremendous consequences. Especially in a culture where as a trippy young healer, I had no mentors or sacred container for this unusual path.

For seven years, from 1999 to 2006, I tripped often, and was rarely truly sober – the time I was “landing” from one trip I was getting ready to take off on another. It’s important to note that I believe I was able to carry on like this for so many years because I was generally micro dosing – imbibing very small doses – of the highest quality substances. This enabled me to function well in my daily life, but still get Divinely freaky. I also think my severe allergy to alcohol has been a blessing really. I’ve never been able to drink, so I was never taxed physically that way.

But I was a psychedelics addict. I ate mushrooms almost every day for over a year. I would pop them in my mouth like people pop breath mints. I did psilocybin until they stopped having any effect, a tragedy when it happened. Other years, the pattern went something like: Molly on a Monday, Tuesday, some pot cookies and coffee, Wednesday, maybe a day off, LSD for Thursday, and bit of Foxy on Friday. The weekends would be a surprise mixed bag.

During this period, I was also running a Pilates studio in the East Village of New York City. I had a very robust clientele with a waiting list. I was a very popular teacher, and was frequently teaching while on psychedelics. Beyond surviving as a young women in the City, I was thriving.

And all the time, I felt the Goddess was teaching me the nature of the Universe. What I saw was a matrix of loving energy weaving through everything, and how the negative space between objects is perfect. That everything is whole, and also interconnected. Whenever I laid hands on my client I was able to see the matrix inside of us, the fascia system, and the way this extends outside of us to connect us to everything. That these filaments remain unbroken, and cannot be broken.

Jesse Heid today

If this sort of Divine Matrix can be an abstract concept to even the most dedicated “believer,” I could visually see this in a psychedelic state. And this is really what I was working on with my clients all day.

People would come to the studio to get a Pilates lesson, and then they would tell me their neck hurt. So I would put them on the Pilates Cadillac and work on their fascia, in a psychedelic state, and then tell them it was “Pilates.” And even while they were talking to me about their stressful lives, the Goddess was whispering instructions in my ear the whole time about what they needed for healing. It was all very mysterious and magical, and it really worked for me for a long time.

Goddess also revealed to me everyone’s true voice. That was consistent on every trip, no matter what I was on.  No matter what medicine I was dosing with, everyone I encountered spoke to me as an extremely vulnerable, innocent five-year-old. It even seemed like the more serious someone was, the more of a heartbreakingly precocious child they were inside.

I was working with CEO’s, neurosurgeons, film producers and their stars, and all I could hear was the innocent child, just trying to navigate and negotiate the suffering of this world.

Now remember, I am completely, 100 percent, not a rebel. I am a good girl, a product of my environment. I was doing what I was taught; “you talk to God. You do loving kindness and make art. You take responsibility for your Divine nature, as Jesus lives in your heart.” And I was never criticized by my family for doing drugs of any sort.

But I don’t think they knew how much I was doing. I don’t think anyone could conceive of how much I was doing because I was so highly functional. But in the end, I started mixing in cocaine. Not because I ever liked cocaine, it was never my drug of choice. But I rarely slept from doing psychedelics, and I had to go to work in the day, so it became like coffee to me. Plus, people were giving me coke for free. The East Village of NYC was different beast back then, and it’s how my clients would tip me sometimes.

With this harder substance in the mix, my lifestyle was finally taking its toll physically, and very quickly. I went down to 95 lbs. I also started to lose any and all respect for society’s rules. Everywhere I went, I was smoking a huge, fat joint.

I started to see a Jungian psychoanalyst, and it was clear to him, I think, that here was a talented young healer, going too far on her mystical trip. He was like, “Are you smart? I think it might just be the drugs that make you feel smart.” Soon I wanted to know if I WAS talented, if I WAS creative, if I had any value, if my friends even liked me (which it turns out they didn’t really), without drugs.

At the same time, the Goddess was telling me; “I’m bringing the hurt if you ever do cocaine again. And by the way, you have to take THIS much acid because it won’t work anymore…” I couldn’t do Molly anymore. Everything was just giving me a headache. When it finally ended, I had taken drugs for 92 days straight, just a few days over 3 months.

That last trip, I mixed a lot of cocaine with acid. Do not EVER do cocaine and acid. I felt as if every single fiber of connective tissue in my body was having a migraine. For days, I could feel my nail beds. I lay on my back for about seven hours to protect my spine. I was in full head to toe spasms. Every single part of me was throbbing with the message; “It’s over. It’s over. It’s over.” And I needed that brutality. Pain is my greatest teacher.

When I quit drugs, I went through the terrible loneliness of feeling disconnected from the Divine. I went from a Universe that was beyond Technicolor and blissful joy, to a world that was grainy, fuzzy black and white. Food didn’t taste good. Music sounded like shit. People lost the innocence in their voice. And my friends were very, very angry at me. Very angry at me for quitting drugs, because, I realized, they had lost their best curator for trips. I had curated fantastic trips.

Jesse in her psychedelics heyday

I felt like I had been kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and kicked out because I couldn’t handle it anymore, and had abused the sacraments. But I also had faith that things were unfolding as they should. I quickly figured out that not only did I have a drug addiction, but almost an addiction to spiritual epiphanies. Now I needed time to digest, to integrate the massive insights I acquired. The Jungian analysis was really fundamental to this. I saw my therapist three times a week for six years.

Physically, I went from one hundred to zero by myself. I swore off absolutely everything that could alter my consciousness, including several years without caffeine. I was being penitent. And there was no 12-step group for psychedelics. I would piggyback on Cocaine Anonymous and AA, but that didn’t work out for me very well. I was dropped by every sponsor, predominantly because they weren’t a psychedelics addict. They were alcoholics, and it’s just a very different vibe to recover from.

I feel very blessed that my body had an easier time dealing with withdrawal than most, and that I was able to fully quit on my own without medical assistance. But my mind and spirit was in hell. I also had to get over the shame of being a psychedelics addict. It was hard work to do that, and it was hard work to participate in life and to show up for people.

On another level, I also had to participate more spiritually. I couldn’t just take the medicine and have Goddess come to me. I actually had to do the work to get into a mystic state. I found myself studying meditation, ritual, and ceremony to try to integrate the wisdom I sourced on my trips into my daily life, but also simply because I missed my communion with Goddess. This period of recovery was a cocooning stage really, where I withdrew from the world to work on myself.

I consider it a miracle that my ability to understand spatial relationships on a very deep somatic level, my understanding of inner space, remained with me through sobriety. Psychedelics taught me everything that I use in my career as a healer now, and these days I just tell my clients the truth when they ask about my methods. That this is something I developed when I did psychedelics regularly, and explored inner space. I often say that once you peak behind the curtain, you can’t “un-see” what you found there. However, integrating that wisdom into daily life is a whole other trip!

I also know that for my spiritual evolution, I needed to know the real darkness of addiction. I relate so deeply to the path of the Wounded Healer, and so many of us are battling addictions of every sort. I’m much more of service as a healer having had to heal myself from my addiction to hallucinogenic drugs. I look back, and rather than deny that part of myself, I feel blessed I got experience it. But I’m far more grateful I got to recover from it.

I do not recommend MY path to anyone else however, and I consider myself very lucky to be here. But witnessing the renaissance for psychedelics unfolding around me now, and the healing aspects of non-ordinary states of consciousness in general being celebrated, actually makes my heart sing. I’m also thrilled to see real support for the appropriate research into the healing properties of these substances, as well as social support for people exploring consciousness through hallucinogens.

For anybody who is choosing to experiment, I’m also beyond stoked to see all the resources out there for people to educate themselves and stay safe and healthy. Check out the awesome organizations below that are helping us evolve towards cognitive liberty and safer inner explorations.

As a healer, teacher, and artist, some of Jesse Heid’s most passionate work is introducing people to their fascia connective tissue and exploring the tensegrity of the fascia matrix throughout our entire form. Jesse holds a BFA in modern dance and composition from CalArts and has been a popular NYC Pilates teacher since 2000. Find out more about her and her work at Alignedspiritpilates.com, and follow her on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest.

For more information about the safe use of psychedelics for healing:

MAPS: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

Women’s Visionary Congress

The Cosmic Sister Women of the Psychedelic Congress