29 years old – Psychologist
For almost three decades of my life, I had no contact at all with any mind-altering substances other than an occasional glass of alcoholic beverage and coffee. Only in my late twenties, parallel to a growing interest in philosophy, spirituality and consciousness in general, did I begin to read about psilocybin and other psychedelics. Very quickly, I developed a fascination for the role such substances played throughout human history, their properties, life-changing effects on people, and the resurgence of promising scientific research on the topic. My interest in having an experience of this kind myself grew continuously, facilitated by the very low dependence potential and toxicity of psilocybin and its natural occurrence in mushrooms. It was always clear to me that I would want to be in a safe and organised setting when committing to such a journey with adequate preparation and assistance from trained professionals.
When an opportunity to participate in a psilocybin retreat opened up, I felt excited, ready, and curious. The experience itself was beautiful and very pleasant. I had strong visual experiences; the music in the room took me with it and guided me through space and time. I felt what is sometimes described as ego-dissolution, but it did not feel threatening or unpleasant at all. What was challenging for me was the waking-up phase. I felt a bit disoriented, and my environment, including the people around me and also my feelings, seemed surreal. I felt everything was just a product of my mind. In hindsight, I would describe this state as dissociation and depersonalization/derealization. It persisted quite strongly throughout the next day and was slightly milder for the four days after. This state was quite unpleasant, and I am very thankful that I was surrounded by trusted and supportive people during this time. At some point, the dissociation gave room to an awe-inspiring feeling of oneness with my surroundings and awareness when standing at a lake in the middle of the forest. This was when two days of clarity and insight began. It was spectacular and felt like the universe took me by the hand and revealed some of its mystery to me. Naturally, this feeling of awareness and clarity also subsided again, but I am able to take away a lot of learnings from the whole experience.
I assume that the experience at the retreat, in its intensity, was quite challenging for my mind. As described, I was inexperienced with any kind of similar experiences and took a few steps that probably contributed to an even more intense experience, like fasting and wearing a hood and eyeshades. In hindsight, I feel like my mind just needed a few days to make sense of all that happened. Trusting that, as with everything else, the feelings of dissociation would be impermanent and not constantly trying to make sense of everything with my rational mind was very helpful – as was the advice to spend time in nature I received from people around me. I am thankful that I decided to go on this journey in an organised setting. Having knowledgeable people around me I could talk to about my experience was immensely valuable.
Though challenging, I take a lot of valuable insights away from this journey, and I am happy to have ventured out to do it.
Note: Some names in the testimonies have been changed to ensure anonymity.