Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, October 1, 2022 - Don’t Dismiss the Mind-Altering

I have done my share of experimentation with mind-altering substances in my life. 

Beginning as a teenager moving toward young adulthood, I became highly curious about how these drugs affected people. I felt no compunction against trying them out. Essentially, I wanted to know first hand what the big deal was. For the most part, I enjoyed them. A few I liked enough to try again, repeatedly. 

But I noticed my perspective on the reasoning behind my use was different from others. It was definitely not about partying, even though I did a fair bit of that. My perspective was always about a sense of deeply needing to know what the total experience was like, as well as the micro-cultures and rituals that formed around their recreational use. I can see now that many of these experiences were inadvertently ceremonial in nature. Does that point to something intrinsic about us?

Not surprisingly, the spirituality of mind-altering substances is at the root of it all for me. For instance, the ceremonial use of the mushrooms containing the psychedelic compound psilocybin predates recorded history. Humans have been using this substance and others like it to alter the terrain of their consciousness, whether temporarily or permanently, since our human beginning.

Repeatedly, users of these substances find that the experience has enhanced their ability to sense a connection with all things, to perceive the oneness of all existence, which proves to be an entirely comforting new mental paradigm for them. It literally changes them from within and alters how they see the world from that point forward.

Why is this so? Why do these things exist? What is their purpose? I maintain a spiritual assumption that there is something to be discovered in pulling a thread so long we can’t see the beginning of it. For the faithful who believe that God makes no mistakes, is there room to consider that there might be genuine spiritual purpose to the existence and long-standing historic use of these substances?

My journey continues, but so far this curiosity has led me to at least one genuine conclusion. Mindfulness and self understanding are the key to properly consuming them. That’s not to say that we don’t come to the altar with questions or flaws, or blemishes of the spirit. One can be a hot mess and still mindfully consume. One could argue, that’s the best time to do it. But mindfulness and intention and preparation and guidance all must be in place to fully benefit.

The trick is in being aware that the experience is a conscious and intentional measure you’re taking for the purpose of expanding self understanding and an enhanced connection with All That Is. Not just to have a good time. 

Of course, I cast not a single judgment against recreational use. But that is a different subject than mindful, ceremonial application of psychedelics, like psilocybin, DMT, LSD, and other intoxicants like THC found in cannabis, to bring about transformation in ourselves. 

There’s a range of things to consider, however, based upon your own current state of emotional wellness regarding their use. The greater the level of our personal emotional crisis, the more we need professional support to take advantage of the benefits of these treatments. Psilocybin mushrooms administered in a medical setting have been found to provide dramatic benefits to those suffering from PTSD, Alzheimer’s, even smoking. The drug ketamine has been found to treat depression, anxiety. and trauma. And for years there has been increasing positive documentation on the use of  LSD to help people face their own mortality when receiving a terminal diagnosis. But these are very different things from unsupervised self-medicating or recreational use. Always seek professional support when choosing to consume these substances as a aspect of mental health treatment. If your consumption is spiritual in nature, particularly with regard to psychedelics, be certain that you are working with an experienced shaman. It is a misuse of their sacredness to harm yourself with them. We all need a guide on our journey.

These words are for those who might find benefit in using mind-altering compounds, but they are also for those who struggle with the issue. Be at ease if family members or people you know seek them. Perhaps even suggest that they do.

It’s a new time. Everything has changed. Consider changing with it and finding new ways to expand yourself. Perhaps the ancients knew what they were doing. They have handed down to us more legacies than we realized. Thanks be to them.

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