On Friday night I spent the evening in front of my altar and drank a tea made from 8 tablespoons of dehydrated brown rice inoculated with Ps. caerulescens mycelium. It had been exactly one year to the day since my first real velada out in the woods. It seems only fitting to write a update after a year, since I did set it as a goal for myself to try to do a velada every week for one year. I didn't quite accomplish this, but I did accumulate over 50 veladas this year since, particularly in the early months, I often ate mushrooms up to 3 times per week. The process catalyzed in me required that I greatly reduce my workload, and since I'm self-employed I was able to work less and live minimally while I recovered from what felt like an infectious disease of the soul. I became sick with the knowledge of my selfishness. Sometimes I could do nothing better than lay in bed for hours while sweating bullets and involuntarily processing unbelievable torrents of information mixed with shame. I won't attempt to elaborate much on these experiences here, as it would be a major undertaking to even scratch the surface. Still, I'm slowly working on compiling my ideas and hopefully will one day put out a book detailing my entire process as it has unfolded thus far, once all of the information has consolidated enough to clearly transmit some of it in writing. Writing things down is incredibly helpful, I highly recommend this as potentially the most useful tool at one's disposal for maintaining a routine of deep self-reflection.
The caerulescens mycelium was not very potent. 8 tablespoons of rice (incubated for two full months) felt to be roughly equivalent to 1.5 - 2 grams of cubensis at the most. I'm not sure if I got unlucky and accidentally selected a weak strain, but it was definitely not anywhere close to the potency of the equal quantity of Ps. semperviva grain. I'll have to experiment more with this strain to see if I did something wrong, or if it might perform better on another grain, or if prepared differently. In any case, it was still very pleasant to visit the altar and I came away with many insights and an optimistic outlook for the coming months.
I'll share a few key insights that I mulled over as I gazed into the candle and reflected on this very difficult and transformative year. Gratefully, I've become much more capable of drawing clear distinctions between reality and my fears or projections. It's a bit astonishing to recall how much fear I've battled with over the last few years. When it came on during the initial stages, it felt very real, like the monster was really present and alive in the room, and it drew nourishment from my unquestioning belief in its existence. It took me a very long time to understand that I don't have to identify with my fears, and that I have the power to defiantly choose not to be controlled by them. Fear has many layers and disguises--its power can be truly insidious. I see now that I've lived most of my adult life as a slave to fear. Ironically, this may be largely due to the fact that I've actually not endured very much real suffering in my life at all. Sure, I came from a somewhat dysfunctional family (like so many others), and I may not have always received the kind of emotional support or understanding that is healthy for a child (again, like so many other people), but at this point I just think, "so what?". I had all of my needs met, I've never had to deal with death or or serious tragedy, I've always had friends and I live in an incredibly beautiful and safe part of the world.
So I ask myself, why was I so miserable throughout my teens and twenties? Why did I always feel like the world was out to get me? Why was I so unable to empathize with my romantic partners, and why did I ostracize myself from my parents, who are incredibly kind and virtuous people who worked so hard to give me the amazing life I took for granted? There are no easy answers to these questions. It's better to accept that it was all just a necessary process, and bearing witness to the selfishness makes gratitude possible. My story is not unique. I think that the relative comfort of our existence in North America has permitted the activation of powerful unconscious forces lurking just below the surface, forces which manifest as a sort of false memory that becomes mistakenly identified with one's own personal history, as in the "satanic panic" of the late 1980's. The details of my upbringing have far less influence on my personality than the collective forces that have been permitted to possess and awaken in me due to the stable conditions of my environment. The soul needs soil to germinate, and this process of germination begins with insanity, the manifestation of repressed unconscious forces that slaughter our identity and fertilize the soul.
So, part of the mushroom's power seems to lie in its ability to open one up to direct experience of the suffering of others, or to the realm of suffering in general. I used to live my life inside of a narcissistic shell, and I rarely allowed my selfish little cell membrane to be penetrated or contaminated by the needs or gestures of compassion from others. I was able to maintain appearances and conduct myself in a way that convinced others that I was kind and empathetic, but when it came down to the choice of whether to serve others or serve myself, I was adept at choosing the latter while maintaining an illusory facade of kindness. An ex-girlfriend of mine once told me rather spitefully that she thought I was a "closet narcissist". Naturally I was insulted but in retrospect I think that was a very apt description. Sadly, this seems to have almost become the norm in western culture. The bizarre individualistic drive to consume and achieve success by ignoring and even abusing everyone around us in hopes of building a private island of selfishness where one can stagnate and die alone, has become a strange disease that so many appear to be perilously infected by, and almost none are completely immune to.
It seems obvious to me at this point, that attending to suffering and the needs of others ought to be the primary motivating force that moves history forward on its course. If people were taught at a very early age that the greatest sense of purpose and satisfaction in life comes from attending to the needs of our families and communities, there might be some hope in salvaging what is left of our civilization. Unfortunately, empathy cannot be learned by rote. If it isn't cultivated through personal experiences of suffering, it may only be feigned. I suspect that there is a kind of empathy far more powerful than what the imagination can simulate, that it might actually be something like a spiritual instrument that requires activation, maintenance, tuning, and practice. No doubt, if such an instrument exists or ever existed in some manifestation, be it biological or imaginal (is there a difference?), it seems it has become terribly atrophied in our present age.
There is a lot of emerging hype related to the possibility that psilocybin reduces fear and heals the brain. The former is of course obvious to anyone with sufficient experience, and the latter might even be directly correlated. Rat studies show that this may well be the case: effects of psilocybin on hippocampal neurogensis and extinction of trace fear conditioning. I believe the effect this has on the individual will naturally extrapolate outward and automatically affect one's family, community and beyond. The bonds we build and repair between one another are analogous to healing neural structures in the brain. Fear is a kind of cancer, a buildup of scar-tissue, a once-necessary but now-redundant protective barrier that prevents us from vocalizing our needs and addressing those of others. As the various regions of our brain remembers how to communicate with one another, it follows that we will also learn to respectfully communicate with our parents, our elders, our sisters, our brothers and our lovers. We must learn to communicate our needs, listen to those of others, and take action by working together to seek imaginative solutions to problems.
If what I'm suggesting is true, that healing the brain is--perhaps through a kind of quantum function--directly correlated with social cohesion, there really may be no better way to heal the world than to simply eat mushrooms. Strip away all the bullshit, the fear, the prejudices, the ideology, the stigma, the excuses and procrastination disguised as precaution, and just be brave. Listen to your heart. Trust in God, the universe, the Great Mother, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or whatever meaningless identity you choose to give to a higher power. If you have just enough courage to eat mushrooms without any agenda beyond the desire to heal yourself, then you are a very special individual indeed. You have power, and it will increase and flow outward each time you trust enough to face your fear and experience the conviction that the higher authority living within really does have an essential role for you in the cosmic drama we are blessed to play a part in. That higher power might choose to cloak itself in your very own thoughts; it might disguise itself as your mother or your father; it might even reveal itself as that beautiful, kind man or woman who doesn't quite equate with your projection of the perfect lover, but is in reality a love that surpasses understanding. If you can, for just a moment, suspend your judgments and listen, you might be surprised to find that God is everywhere, speaking through everyone and everything always, and this God wants to be your friend and help you create the real world.