Wednesday, December 14, 2011

On Neuroplasticity

Recent research has indicated that relatively little meditation practice (10 minutes a day) is needed to produce changes in the brain, at least in the case of simple frontal asymmetry.  But what about other changes?  I'm not sure how applicable this is, but on Wikipedia for the book The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, research on blind people learning braille (practicing 2-3 hours 5 days a week) indicated that it took 10 months for improvements to stabilize.  That's over 600 hours of practice.



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

One Helluva Kasina

This interactive kaleidoscope is pretty wild.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trip Report #7

3.6 grams psilocybe cubensis, nitrous oxide
EEG biofeedback at P3 & P4, 8-11 Hz
Light machine (Sirius) on random setting (#23)


I could have done without this one.  I wanted to replicate the experience of my last trip, but it didn't exactly work out that way.

Overall, it was like having some kind of cosmic illness.  Not exactly horrible, mind you, and full of amazing wonders, but at the same time kind of like having a mild cold or the flu or something.  Physically there was a constant low level of struggle or tension, kind of like a groan that lasted for several hours.  I mean, there's always a certain tension related to the drug itself, that's a given, but this was something more.  A continuous kind of inclination towards muscular tension, a need to regularly flex and strain and stretch, and to literally breathe with a groan on almost every breath.  Although the mood might have legitimately touched into "good" at times, true euphoric joy seemed completely elusive.  In fact, a real absence of joy defined the experience, a general unpleasantness and mild misery if you will.

The first couple of hours had some very, very psychedelic spaces of color and pattern beyond imagination, certainly some of the wildest I have experienced, like living in a Peter Max painting or something.  I should say that under these conditions the random setting on the light machine is spectacular, providing an ever-changing canvas for spontaneous visual creations, infinitely beyond what would be experienced if say, tripping with your eyes open in the daylight.  Yet always with this underlying felt sense of a slightly unsatisfactory, straining aspect, very physical.  There were a few scenarios that reached into the toybox of childhood struggles, played out in multiple ways.  Many, many rooms in this mansion, all mildly unpleasant.  I kept thinking I could break through the funk, but to no avail.  Again, it was like a mild illness, and although I was mostly equanimous with it, I was very much wanting to be "well," wanting it to be over.

I tried vipassana, noting tension, unpleasant, seeing, hearing, etc., but found it difficult to maintain, and the underlying ennui persisted.  I tried to embrace the struggle, tried to learn from it, tried to ferret out any resistance on my part, as has been my practice, but this was one tough mother.  Sometimes I could relax away from it for a few moments, but there was always a quick return to the underlying unsatisfactoriness and tension.  Just writing this I realize that I skipped my usual daily meditation, in fact I was wanting to avoid it.  Hmm.  Might not have been a bad idea to work up to my cutting edge in meditative practice before dosing.  Might have been something of a psychedelic exploration of the dukkha nanas, the dark night.  Actually that does fit pretty well, particularly misery and desire for deliverance.  Then again, maybe my subconscious is just projecting all this stuff in line with the Progress of Insight.

I opted out of feedback after a couple of hours as I needed to try and change things up to see if I could shake this strange "illness," but to no avail.  I put on some upbeat music, and even felt compelled to get up and dance a bit, but it was as if my true heart was not in it, stricken by a kind of psychedelic melancholy, an existentialist angst that had no remedy.

I have found my psychedelic explorations on the whole to be tremendously valuable.  It seems like an eternity ago that I ever even had a mild problem with paranoia while tripping, and I feel that I've made psychological progress with respect to my shadow material that could equate to literally years of therapy in just a few psychedelic sessions, real healing at the very deepest level, leaving me feeling very good and wholesome about all of that stuff, but this trip has left me a bit perplexed and wanting.  This was not shadow, and this was certainly not the intense horror of paranoia, but something else.  Heh.  Just when you think you're gotten somewhere I suppose the universe has to give you a kick in the seat of the pants.  Really surprising as I tend to look so forward to these experiences.  A cautionary tale, luck of the draw, maybe, or has this just peeled back a deeper layer of the onion?

Need to remember to dress warmer, and I think having some cookies on hand would have been nice.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Meditative Path

Ron Crouch gives his take on the Theravada Buddhist Progress of Insight, the map that describes the stages of developmental progress on the contemplative path.  Ron attained 4th path within just a couple of years of beginning a formal sitting practice.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Monitoring State of Consciousness

Found an interesting page about work to develop a tool for monitoring meditative states of consciousness on the Beckley Foundation website.  The Beckley Foundation describes itself as "a charitable trust that promotes the scientific investigation of consciousness and its modulation from a multidisciplinary perspective. We also seek to change global drugs policy to reflect a more rational, evidence-based approach, shifting the emphasis from criminalisation to health."

The EEG of 30 experienced meditators was studied, revealing:

(1) Decrease in Delta (1-3.5 Hz) and Theta (4-7.5 Hz) activity in central, parietal, and occipital areas of the brain.
(2) Significant increase in Gamma band activity in frontal brain areas.
(3) Slight decrease in low-Gamma (25.5-47 Hz) coherence in frontal-parietal areas.
(4) Shift of occipital Theta activity towards the left hemisphere.
(5) Gamma activity was highly increased up to three times its resting state power amplitude.
(6) Gamma band power and oscillatory Gamma seem to be completely decoupled during meditation.
(7) Beta and Gamma activity shift to the right hemisphere in central and temporal regions.

The main finding of significant increase in frontal gamma matches up with Davidson's work.  The shift of occipital theta towards the left hemisphere, not sure how significant that is, but it reminds me of Elmer Green's recommendation to do alpha-theta training at O1.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Many Uses of Psychedelics

From the LA Times, scientists are finding new uses for psychedelic drugs including treatments for PTSD, addiction, and depression.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Silk Road - Underground Marketplace for Recreational Chemicals

EDIT:  this site is long gone.  I am mildly embarrassed that I gave it any press, given that there were some slightly shady things that may have gone on there.  But I don't personally consider reasonable amounts of certain substances in safe environments to be shady.


This site made the news a while back, an underground marketplace hidden more or less in plain sight.  I happened to think of it again when a friend of mine who lives a couple of thousand miles away was trying to source a few difficult to find items.  The link I have is:

http://ianxz6zefk72ulzz.onion/index.php

But you can't access that link with an ordinary browser.  As far as I know the only option is to use the anonymous Tor browser bundle, so in theory everyone approaches the site anonymously.  The Tor browser bundle sets up pretty neatly as a one-click solution using a version of Firefox as the browser.  However, due to the anonymizing, it starts slower (I often wonder if something is wrong) and everything loads slower than your regular browser.  Once at the Silk Road site you'll have to create a username and password to look around.

Mainly recreational chemicals are sold, everything from cannabis, shrooms, LSD,  MDMA and Ketamine to name a few, and when I just now took a look, there were 1557 drug items being sold.  My recollection is that there is a lot more going on there than when I first took a look some months back.  Trades are made using Bitcoins, a digital currency which I presently know next to nothing about, except that some of the prices seem a bit high.  As of today, a Bitcoin trades for $2.77 USD.

Sellers receive ratings from buyers, which if accurate would help to prevent rip-offs.  Without ratings I'm not sure such a site would be practical.  Given reasonable ratings, most of the risk involved would be in receiving the package itself.

I have not used the site myself, but I find it very interesting.

I have a certain amount of libertarian sympathies in me, and I would tend to agree with one highly-ranked seller's viewpoint on this kind of thing:

About me: Cautious, normal, everyday person who ships high quality products discreetly. I believe that the use of drugs is a personal choice. I also believe that those who are able to navigate the complexities involved with acquiring Bitcoin and configuring Tor are intellectually fit enough to research their drugs and take appropriate doses relative to their experience and comfort level. Try visiting erowid.org as a nice informative starting point if you're unsure.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Meditation improves Default Mode Processing

From the abstract of Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity, "we found that the main nodes of the default-mode network (medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices) were relatively deactivated in experienced meditators across all meditation types" and from the Behavioral Medicine Report, a good write up including "the meditators did this both during meditation, and also when just resting — not being told to do anything in particular. This may indicate that meditators have developed a “new” default mode in which there is more present-centered awareness, and less “self”-centered, say the researchers."

This was research from Judson Brewer, who has been doing fMRI scans on advanced meditators I mentioned in Path vs. Non-Path and Meditating in a Big Magnetic Tube.

The default mode locations of medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate correspond roughly to Fz (maybe Fpz) and Pz.  Douglas Dailey recommends doing alpha-theta training at these locations, and has a number of reasons for doing so laid out in his FAQ for his alpha-theta design.  My personal experience, sample of one, is that rewarding frontal theta makes it very difficult to stay present, but your mileage may vary.

EDIT:  Nice critique of this paper in "A brave new default mode in meditation practitioners- or just confused controls?"

TripMaster Alpha Guide - BioExplorer Design

I thought I would share the BioExplorer Design that I have used for tripping (and occasional regular sessions).  I've done hundreds of designs, this is a good one, and I believe there are some good ideas here that I'd like to share.  This is a 2 channel design with a focus on Alpha.  All amplitudes used are sums of both channels.  Here's a breakdown of the biofeedback it provides and some design notes:

  • Alpha - continuous pan flute
  • Alpha High - sounds choir aahs when alpha hits a new relative high
  • Alpha Max - sounds high pan flute when total alpha hits a new high for the session
  • Alpha minus Beta - continuous surf sound
In this version Alpha is defined as 8-11 Hz and Beta as 15-25 Hz, using elliptical filters.  I like to adjust the filters so that the delay is roughly the same, so that whatever is happening is in sync, unlike most designs where beta information (generally a wider band) will be arriving ahead of alpha.

I find that raw EEG amplitudes have a skewed distribution that makes continuous audio feedback less helpful (too quiet most of the time, and then too loud on the spikes), and to that end I take the square root of the amplitudes to get a somewhat more normal distribution.  This transformation provides for a more continuous feel.

When detrending is needed to calculate relative highs, this would normally be done with a threshold object, but I roll my own using percentile objects.  This allows me to calculate the threshold based on a longer length of time.  In most cases I use the full 2 minutes that the percentile object allows, as opposed to the maximum of 60 seconds that the threshold object uses.

The background is a surf sound which varies according to a 4 second average of total alpha minus total beta.  I find that a 4 second average is just long enough to cut through local variation and give a good sense of the underlying trends.  The surf sound has been substantially compressed, i.e. the volume variation has been taken out of it, so that the feedback volume ends up being based on actual brainwaves rather than the surf track itself.

That's about it.  I include an oscilloscope for both channels, mainly to see that I'm getting good signals.  Also a graph of the amplitudes for all major bands, delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma, with the session timer set to 6 hours, not sure how useful that is.  And there is a trend graph of alpha and the smoothed alpha minus beta on instruments 2, mainly I was using that while getting the design parameters set.

The design will be looking for the surf sound in a Media folder under BioExplorer in a Windows 7 setup.  I think even if you set it up right, I believe you will need to go into the Audio Player object, remove it from playlist (will probably be x-d out) and add it back in and you should be good to go.

I think my best recommendation for sites would be P3 & P4.  If anyone ends up using this design, I would appreciate your comments.  Good luck and bon voyage!



Trip Report #6

3.5 grams psilocybe cubensis, nitrous oxide
EEG biofeedback at P3 & P4, 8-11 Hz
Light machine (Sirius) on deep meditation setting (#11)
Did my usual daily 40 minutes of vipassana before dosing.

I had been trying to perfect the low-dose psilocybin + cannabis + nitrous oxide kind of thing for a while, but having gotten pretty thoroughly acquainted with that approach, and having gotten to oneness many times by that method, I decided to revisit a somewhat higher dose of psilocybin, and also return to EEG biofeedback.  Nitrous oxide was sipped every other breath or so once the trip started to take off.  I don't believe I had tried a non-obliteration dose of nitrous oxide in this setting before, so this was new.

This trip was significant in that I felt this was the first time I had genuine hallucinations.  I have certainly encountered some weird stuff before, the most startling of which was very fleeting, but mainly I would classify the effects to be distortions of existing reality as opposed to entirely imaginary realms.

This time, as the trip began to really take off, I found myself in a glass-walled triangular corridor in some kind of office, vaguely reminiscent of the Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado, which I had visited as a young child.  The triangular patterning went beyond the building itself, basically to infinity in all directions.

In the metaphor of my mind, it was clear that I was wanting to gain access to the "control room" as it were in this office, but at this point early in the trip it seemed unattainable - denied access by the corporate bureaucracy.  It was a modern office space, beautiful in its own way, high in the sky, all the glass with black mullions, modern office furniture, largely empty but with the occasional secretary.  But it seemed clear that I was not going to get in to see the boss.

Not too long after that, I experienced some kind of alien world, with large, organic, amorphous alien life.  But by that time the game was up and I realized everything was myself.

Not really any shadow material this time, I was probably in a high enough dose range for me to sidestep it, although over the course of many low dose trips I've become very comfortable with all that stuff.  There are some feelings which I associate with a kind of wholesome family vibe, something nurturing, that I got to explore a bit, perhaps notable in the wake of Thanksgiving.  I've never really thought about having kids, but there is something in there that could almost get me to turn the corner.  I have found the past few months of psychedelic experimentation to be a very useful form of therapy.

I do like doing the biofeedback, it may be a weak effect but it's nice to throw into the mix.  This time I found myself struck by the power of the psilocybin, as sometimes even the nitrous seemed to have little effect, which is pretty amazing if you've had any experience with it.




Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Psilocybin Study Participant Writes Book & Roland Griffiths

One of the subjects from the Roland Griffiths 2006 study on psilocybin (replicating the Marsh Chapel experiment) has written a book about her spiritual experiences on psilocybin.  Scientific American prints an excerpt from "One Kind of Knowing".

Also, a couple of more Roland Griffiths links, a text interview covering Psilocybin Studies and the Religious Experience from MAPS.org, and an audio interview titled "Psilocybin and Quantum Change in Attitude and Behavior" from noetic.org.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stumbling On to a Few Things About Psilocybin

I was wondering about where in the brain the effects of psilocybin took place and came across this interesting graphic showing psilocybin binding of  serotonin 5-HT2A receptors,  from the Heffter Research Institute in Zurich which funds psychedelic research (including a bunch I've already reported on, like our old pal Roland Griffiths).  Red and yellow indicate the highest receptor concentrations.  If I'm looking at this correctly, the frontal lobes get hit pretty hard.

I was also very interested in a brief mention of one of their other studies where, "comparing subjects in a meditation state with subjects under the influence of psilocybin, 3-D EEGs showed striking similarities between the two states of consciousness. This result may further explain how psilocybin “awakens” the brain patterns that occur during meditative and spiritual states of consciousness."

Also funded by Heffter was pooled research by Franz Vollenweider of 8 double blind placebo controlled studies, suggesting "that the administration of moderate doses of psilocybin to healthy, high-functioning and well-prepared subjects in the context of a carefully monitored research environment is associated with an acceptable level of risk."



Friday, November 4, 2011

Shadow Material related to the Dark Night?

I was listening to the Buddhist Geek podcasts with Willoughby Britton about her research into the Dark Night phenomenon.  She doesn't get into details of the maps of the meditative path, but in the Theravada Progress of Insight, this is a period that follows attainment of the 4th nana aka the Arising & Passing, which is often a big experience of love, bliss, and lights.

This is perhaps the first attempt to take a scholarly approach to this whole phenomenon and is formally known as the Adverse Effects and Difficult Stages of the Contemplative Path Research Project.


In the wake of my recent experiences with the psychological shadow, I'm tentatively beginning to wonder if dark night experience is in some way related to shadow psychological material. 

The Dark Night by the nanas:

  • 5th nana - Dissolution
  • 6th nana - Fear
  • 7th nana - Misery
  • 8th nana - Disgust
  • 9th nana - Desire for Deliverance
The shadow is material that society more or less forces us to repress.  Viewing it indeed creates feelings of fear, misery, disgust, and desire for deliverance.

My view of both meditation and use of psychedelics is that we start at the surface level of the mind, where everything is tied up tight, although not necessarily neatly.  With higher doses of meditation or psychedelics (for me the range of say 0.7 to 3.0 grams of dried psilocybe cubensis) the various bindings unravel and one enters a deeper territory where shadow material is uncovered.  At still higher doses of meditation or psychedelics (say 3.5 grams or more for me) one goes deeper, beyond the level of repressed emotions, and so this is a level of great freedom.  This might happen during a big experience of the 4th nana, or on a high dose of psychedelics.  Sometimes I notice that after a very pleasant experience of oneness, during the slow comedown I slide back down the scale into shadow material, and perhaps this is similar to what happens in meditation after realizing the 4th nana.  The Yogi has opened up deeper layers of the mind that must be dealt with.

I experienced the shadow again after my last post, and every time it becomes more  pleasant to hang out with.  I would encounter the anima in various forms, and as I got more comfortable with it, my identity and the identity of the anima would become confused, merging and flipping.  Am I looking at it, or at myself?  Both?  Neither?  Whatever - just be okay with it all.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Shadow Knows

Recent journeys of mine, as I dabble with increasing amounts of low dose psilocybin in conjunction with nitrous oxide, have had me stumbling into the territory of shadow psychological material from time to time.  In some ways I think I could relate even simple feelings of paranoia to the shadow in some mild way, but these recent very specific archetypes and feelings under psychedelics point so clearly and directly to the repressed material described by Jung that it ain't even funny.  Besides the overall shadow, Jung postulates the anima, a set of repressed feminine characteristics for males, and the animus, a corresponding set for females.

When I first encountered this material, I wanted to push it away, to shun it, and it caused a fair amount of anxiety to have this uncomfortable material shoved right in my face.  At some level I was resisting, and yet I knew from experience with psychedelics and meditation and psychology that I needed to accept this material and make peace with it, but it has been difficult.  I tend to throw vipassana at it, but still have to note "unpleasant."

I think it makes a certain amount of sense that our individual acculturation creates repressed material, and I think it also makes sense that when you peel back the surface layers of the personality (in Jung's terms the persona or mask), that what has been pushed down for so long is what pops up and stands out.

With repeated experiences, I have been able to view this material with more equanimity, and even some curiosity, although I feel like I have a ways to go.  Last time around I got a good clear look at my anima in the wake of yet another experience of oneness.

I have gotten to the point where I am actually looking forward to more opportunities to accept and embrace this material.  Obviously, at the level of oneness, this material is integrated, so it seems to me that a process of integrating this into the persona over time would help bring about even more oneness in everyday life.

Here's a very informative transcribed talk by Ann Shulgin, wife of Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin (noted psychedelic chemist) on the shadow.  Note that page links to a podcast of the material but the link is wrong - you'll need this link to get it.

Catching up on Research

A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind
Research using a smartphone to randomly contact participants and quiz them about their thoughts and feelings throughout the day reveal that our minds wander quite a bit (47% of the time), and that on balance those wanderings are unpleasant.  "The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost."  It would be interesting to do this research with a comparison sample of meditators.


Meditation Improves Mood in a Short Period of Time
Positive mood is associated with a left activated brain, activation referring to more amplitude at high frequencies (i.e. beta) as opposed to slower frequencies like alpha.  Meditation has been shown to increase this asymmetry.  For example, Richard Davidson had previously studied this with a standard 8 week program of MBSR, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, finding significant changes with an average of around 1 hour of meditation per day over 8 weeks.  The newer study by Moyers shows changes with only around 10 minutes per day over 5 weeks.  EDIT:  Moyers discusses this research in a 3 part YouTube presentation.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

No Wonder They're Happy

In the article "Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness" researchers found changes in PET scans of practitioners of Yoga Nidra meditation indicating a 65% increase in endogenous dopamine.  Yoga Nidra is typically a practice of paying attention to a number of points of the body in order, which is very similar to Goenka style (body scanning) Vipassana.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Shamatha Project

The Shamatha Project was inspired by Alan Wallace, long time Tibetan Buddhist practitioner and author.  Amazingly, 2 samples of 30 participants agreed to engage in 3 months of intensive meditation practice, approximately 5 hours per day of shamatha practice, a focused concentration on the breath or anapanasati.  This type of practice differs somewhat from the moment to moment concentration of whatever is present which is called vipassana.

I was reminded of the project when listening to Secular Buddhist podcast #23 with one of the researchers.  The research is written up in Psychological Science, Intensive Meditation Improves Perceptual Discrimination and Sustained Attention.

The test of attention that they used reminded me of the TOVA test (Test of Variables of Attention), which if you have ever taken it, is very boring by design, but is quite good for detecting lapses in sustained attention.  A generic version is available, TOAV (Test of Attentional Vigilance).


"They carry you there where God is"

A typical statement Robert Gordon Wasson heard when asking Central American Indians about their sacred mushrooms (teonanacatl, "God's flesh").  He was the first Westerner to partake of psilocybin mushrooms in the summer of 1955, following a long fascination with mushrooms of all kinds.  This is from the article from Life magazine.  The curandera, or shaman, is listed as Eva Mendes, a pseudonym Wasson gave to protect the name of the actual woman, Maria Sabina.
The dose described for Maria was 13 pairs of fresh mushrooms, well into "heroic dose" territory, although I think there is a certain logic in going high, particularly if you are experienced.  Blasting completely past psychological issues and leaving them in the dust does make a certain amount of sense.  The Westerners were given 6 pairs of fresh shrooms, a healthy amount perhaps comparable to an eighth of dried mushrooms, around 3.5 grams.
 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Few Links, Richard Davidson, etc.

Psychedelic Research blog covers some Insane Brain Train - friendly ground.

On the meditation front there's a lot of debate sparked by fundamentalist Buddhists (ugh) and more modern pragmatic practitioners.  One of those debates is on whether or not you must master jhanas before beginning vipassana.  In From Vipassana Hater to Vipassana Lover, the Theravadin blog provides the interesting perspective that perhaps "dry vipassana" (without jhanas) was actually recommended by Buddha.

In my last post I linked to the study where Richard Davidson reported that long term meditators self induce high amplitude gamma and gamma synchrony.  That was a well done piece of research (from the man who has commented that "the vast majority of meditation research is schlock").  The 8 meditators in the study were from the Tibetan tradition and were practicing metta, or loving kindness meditation.  One of the meditators was Yongey Mingur Rinpoche, who is known for his book Joyful Living.  The high levels of gamma (in this study 25-42 Hz) and gamma synchrony differ from research showing mainly alpha and theta effects.  But from my perspective, I have concerns that metta may not exactly be the straightest pipe to enlightenment, and it is something that people strive to generate.  I would love to see the study replicated on Theravadans practicing straight up vipassana, or, going the route of open awareness, maybe have those same Tibetans do their Dzogchen or Mahamudra type practice.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Roland Griffiths Interview

At the end of the Psilocybin Leads to Increased Openness post, I tacked on a link to a Roland Griffiths interview at the Secular Buddhist (a number of very interesting podcasts there, by the way).  I'm really impressed with all the meditation-savvy researchers out there, and it appears Roland is yet another one, and his psilocybin research is very interesting.  I had a chance to listen to the podcast a couple of times and thought it merited some coverage.

Right up front, when discussing his background, it sounds like Griffiths refers to a vipassana "arising and passing" event (stereotypically a big experience of love, bliss and lights) that occurred at a Siddha meditation retreat of some kind.  He refers to an opening up of a sense of awe and wonder, a "deeply moving" experience that led him to read up on spirituality to understand "what the hell happened to me."

He also refers to the famous 1962 Good Friday Experiment by Walter Pahnke at Harvard (under thesis advisors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert aka Ram Dass), where a high percentage of those dosed with psilocybin had profound religious experiences.  Roland considered his 2006 study to be a replication of Pahnke's experiment, albeit with tighter controls, and as somewhat of a skeptic he was blown away by the results, with high percentages ranking the experience as one of the most important of their life.  His surprise at the results stems from his background as a researcher with 40 years of experience at interviewing subjects on various types of other psychoactive drugs, uppers and downers, etc.  Clearly psychedelics are a very special class of drug.

They used the Hood Mysticism Scale which lists the following as aspects of traditional spontaneous mystical experiences:
  • unity, interconnectedness, oneness, merging
  • deep reverence or sacredness
  • noetic, an "authority" of the experience being more real or true than everyday life
  • positive mood, heart opening, peace & tranquility
  • time and space collapse into the present moment
  • ineffable
I would concur :)

He was very excited ("kid in a candy store") by the prospects for future research, as demonstrating that the psilocybin effects seem to be nearly identical to traditional spontaneous experiences means they can use the drug to prospectively research the effects of the experience, looking at various areas of the brain, drug interactions, personality variables, genetic influences, etc.

As a result, much research is in the offing.  He plans to study the effect of psilocybin on prospective meditators. Another interesting study will be to look at long term established meditators, their experience on psilocybin, and this will be done in conjunction with Richard Davidson (for neuroimaging) who did the well known paper showing high levels of gamma and gamma synchrony in long term meditators.  There will be a study for cancer patients to see if a psilocybin experience can help those suffering from death related anxiety.  And research to gauge the effects of a psilocybin experience in conjunction with drug rehabilitation.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Nitrous Oxide, a catalyst for Oneness



I wanted to discuss some nitrous oxide experiences, my approach to it (in particular the cannabis - N2O combination), as well as some pros and cons of the drug itself.

It's been a few months since I first experienced oneness on a high dose of psilocybin mushrooms augmented by nitrous oxide.  The experience persisted to some degree for several days.  For example, I would occasionally have moments where I would see people on the street and see them as myself.  After that, it faded a bit, although I can still go "there" conceptually, as I suppose anyone can.  Over the next couple of weeks I found the experience would reoccur while using cannabis, and then that faded away as well.  Subsequent to that, I found that augmenting cannabis with nitrous oxide would get me to that state perhaps 50% or more of the time.  I suspect that my prior experience of oneness with psilocybin and N2O may have been important in terms of laying down some neural pathways to the experience.  Otherwise I feel I might have experienced this earlier in life when I first experimented with the cannabis-N2O combination.

In some way what led me to this was the fact that I had a large quantity of N2O on hand for experimentation.  When I was looking into ordering it in the first place I came across a good deal for a case of it (25 boxes of cartridges for making whipped cream), and as a result I've had a large supply on hand.  To be honest, I'm not quite sure that it was the best decision to have on hand a large quantity of such a drug, but I'm fascinated where it has led me.  My reluctance there is based both on my knowledge of the "pull" of the drug, that is, the at least mildly addictive quality of it, as well as the knowledge that it may not be quite as safe as other catalysts.

So let's break down the effects and try to look at this rationally.  Here I'm collating the basic information on nitrous oxide from Wikipedia here:
  • anxiolytic, some effects have cross tolerance with benzodiazepines
  • mild anesthetic (reversible loss of sensation)
  • dissociative anesthetic, reduces signals to the conscious mind
  • analgesic effects, again, some effects have cross tolerance with opiates, also, the noradrenergic system (fight or flight) is inhibited
  • euphoria, releases dopamine
Problems:
  • depletes vitamin B12
  • should not be used by pregnant women or those trying to conceive
  • some neurotoxicity
  • addictive quality
  • impurities
Neurotoxicity:

The mention of neurotoxicity includes substantial ambiguity, as some of the effects also conversely include neuroprotection via inhibition of glutamate.  But it would be quite reckless to overlook the possibility.

Vitamin B12 is a neuroprotectant.  Given that, and the fact that N2O depletes it, I think any sane use of N2O would require that one supplement with a hefty dose of B12 upfront.  I use a 1mg (16,667% of RDA) lozenge dissolved under my tongue.

Other supplement type neuroprotectants include all manner of flavonoids and polyphenols which any health nut would be aware of, from berries, green tea, and chocolate, to omega-3 fatty acids.  So a very healthy diet is recommended, and as much supplementation as you can find to be reasonable.

Also note, importantly, that cannabinoids are neuroprotectants.

Part of the problem is lack of oxygen.  Always get some air with your N2O.  It occurs to me that cardio would be helpful in that regard as well.

EDIT:  I've now seen a couple of papers regarding other B vitamins in connection with N2O use, mainly folic acid, of which the best form seems to be L-Methylfolate, also vitamin B-6.  At some point supplementation gets out of hand, but there are a variety of studies showing benefits to preoperative doses of one or more of these B vitamins either immediately before surgery or over the preceding week.  EDIT:  Also have seen that methionine supplementation may be helpful as N2O inhibits methionine synthase.  I think this is B12 related, so B12 might cover it, but you only have one brain.

Also check out the nitrous oxide wiki at drugs-forum.

Addictive Quality:

At the surface level of information about N2O, there's not a tremendous amount said about the addictive quality, but clearly some people have used it compulsively, and it has been called "hippie crack."  I think more would be said about it if it were more popular.  I think the relative lack of talk about its addictiveness stems more from the fact that it is kind of an oddball high and not a particularly easy drug to deal with as you have to constantly inhale it.  Difficult to become completely addicted unless you want to walk around with a tank or something.  However, I do think it's a drug with a certain amount of binge potential to keep an eye on.  The presence of cross tolerances to benzodiazepines and opiates tells me you should have a very healthy respect for this drug, and it should be used infrequently.  I don't consider this to be a weekday drug.

Impurities:

Another consideration is purity of the gas itself.  Back in the day I had never considered this, but some of these cartridges apparently have purer gas than others, although these are all food grade for use in whipped cream.  There is an activated carbon filtration system available (NitroKit), it plugs in right at the gas intake of a whipped cream dispenser.  Unfortunately that is where the pressure is highest so as it turns out you still get some stuff blasting through because of the intense pressure and velocity.  I fashioned a piece of wire to fit in the dispensing end and found that wedging a small amount of cotton up against that wire was useful as an additional filter (without the wire the pressure can blow the cotton right out).  Sometimes I see some small rust colored particles (I know they use iron as part of the process of removing impurities).  In some testing they did on Erowid, a layer of 3 pieces of cotton t-shirt material seemed to do a superior job of filtering.  I strongly recommend you do some kind of filtering.

EDIT: In a later post, I talk about nitrous oxide brands.  My recommendation (at least from one non-Chinese distributor) would be Ultra-PureWhip, and not regular PureWhip.


My earliest experiences in college with N2O were basically taking it in near "obliteration" mode.  When I first tried it, we would typically have one box on hand, and several people present, and it made a certain amount of sense to take it in this way.  I mean, you have a short acting drug and a small supply, a bit of social pressure, and there you go.  Max it out.  Chug it, dude!

But what I stumbled on, with a large supply on hand, was the idea of just kind of sipping it, taking a small "toke" every breath or two along with plenty of air.  In some ways this may be analogous to the way it is used in the dentists office.  I found this leads to an exquisite and rarified "cruising altitude" where more and more things can be let go of, eventually leading to an altitude conducive to great philosophical insight, a very top down, all-encompassing perspective, even oneness, and one of the most pleasurable highs I have experienced.  As William James put it, "the keynote of the experience is the tremendously exciting sense of an intense metaphysical illumination. Truth lies open to the view in depth beneath depth of almost blinding evidence. The mind sees all logical relations of being with an apparent subtlety and instantaneity to which its normal consciousness offers no parallel. "

It does take some time with my method to get to that altitude.  I recommend starting with cannabis, using the type and amount of cannabis that you prefer to get to a solid, comfortable "base camp" altitude.  Or you could of course go the psychedelic route.  I'm just mentioning cannabis because it's very practical.  (I now consider the cannabis only method to be lacking.  I now regularly use a small non-psychedelic amount of shrooms, something like 0.75 grams, as it seems to be very important to the experience.  I consider full on psychedelic experiences a special category that requires a bit more preparation.  In contrast, you can function on cannabis, you can function on sub-gram levels of shrooms, and N2O is very short acting.)


Once base camp is established, begin sipping on the N2O.  At this slower rate of intake it takes a bit of time to get to where I'm talking about, depending what altitude we're talking about, perhaps an hour, maybe one box of 24 N2O cartridges.  Each cartridge seems to be good for somewhere between 2-3 minutes the way I use it.  I'm a little concerned about the length of exposure, but then again I think I'm fairly aware of the risks and rewards.  Using this quantity of N2O, the aftereffects do seem to last for a while after.  With one cartridge, you will be back to normal in minutes, but this quantity does seem to leave somewhat more hangover for the following hours.

Recommended reading: Erowid Nitrous Oxide vault 

Also, a cautionary tale from a fellow traveler with extensive N2O experience, both on LSD (a combination he calls Gascid) and with cannabis.

EDIT:
Added my extended personal recommendations and practical considerations:
  • Start early.  Because of sleep problems, I like to have plenty of time to detox afterwards for a couple of hours, and if adding even a small amount of psilocybin I like to begin 6-8 hours ahead of a reasonable sleep time.
  • Dose any psilocybin first, it has the longest onset and longest effects of the substances at hand.  My recommendation is currently 0.75 grams shrooms per 80 kg, approximately 1/10 of a strong psychedelic dose.  This is probably very individualized, but in my experience this is a low enough dose to sidestep getting into shadow psychological territory, but enough to help pry open the door to mystical experience slightly.  All we need is to get a foot in the door.
  • If possible go the edible route for cannabis, so the timeline is generally to eat a hash brownie first, then eat the shrooms after one hour, then begin nitrous about when everything starts kicking in, perhaps 30-45 minutes.
  • Remember to take your sublingual B12 and any other neuroprotectants prior to N2O use.  Because I'm a bit OCD about supplements, I happen to already have on hand curcumin and carnosine, for example.


  • Warm up your vaporizer (you do use a vaporizer, right?) and mix yourself a drink if you like.  I like to have one alcoholic drink while I vaporize a moderate amount of pure indica cannabis.  I suggest a moderate amount, but in some ways the point with this approach is to maximize reward to risk of all substances involved, i.e. whatever you can tolerate without negative effects.  For me the alcohol is not so much necessary as it is a personal habit when vaporizing, but I find it useful to take the edge off slightly and forestall any anxiety or paranoia from the cannabis or shrooms.  Although it should be said the N2O will generally take that edge off as well.

  • Put on some music (you do have a computer hooked up to play mellow trippy music with G-Force visualizations through your big flat screen TV, right?), get comfortable and begin sipping nitrous.  The N2O should be considered somewhat precious (roughly one box of 24 cartridges per hour, usually 45-75 minutes per box), so I recommend cultivating a practice of exhaling slowly if you have N2O in your lungs.  I also recommend, perhaps even more importantly, that you adopt a practice where regular air is always the majority of your breath.  If you want to go to pluto once or twice to just do it, or overcome a temporary psychological obstacle, you can violate this rule for a breath or two, but I almost never do this, it's kind of like, why bother.  Understand that the experience I'm describing isn't about obliteration, it's about generating a genuine, sustained mystical experience with very safe and easy to manage levels of an ensemble of drugs.  No one drug is used at excessive levels.  The most dangerous thing we're playing with here is the nitrous oxide.
  • Additional considerations for the preservation of N2O:  Make nitrous the first thing to hit the lungs, get it deep, and chase it with plenty of air.  You can exaggerate this concept by first exhaling more fully before sipping, and then after chasing it with plenty of air, inhale even more fully than normal, then as always, exhale slowly afterwards.  I find that with these techniques and the synergy with the cannabis and psilocybin, the N2O lasts much longer.
  • In my experience you'll need to redose the cannabis (and have a drink if you want) about every 1.5-2.0 hours, but that probably depends a lot on you and the type of cannabis.  Particularly because of the N2O, at the redose point you may not feel like you need anything else, but trust me, I recommend you redose and check it out.  It really helps to potentiate things.  Nitrous by itself is fairly profound, yes, but we're looking for more here.  There is something extra and a bit magical that happens when adding cannabis and maybe a bit of psilocybin.  Don't waste it, use the synergy.  Particularly if you're already into a mystical experience, adding a very reasonable redose is surprisingly nice.
  • It does seem to take a while to reach the altitude I'm talking about.  There is apparently a buildup of some kind while doing nitrous for extended periods, perhaps receptors are slowly getting overwhelmed or something, and in my experience if I'm going to hit that realm "beyond the other shore" it does take maybe 1.5 hours to get there.  I personally think it then makes sense to soak in the experience for one or two more cannabis cycles, so we're talking about a total experience of 3-5 hours or thereabouts (up to 4-5 boxes of N2O).  The nitrous may call you to continue at that point (more-ing), but I highly recommend you shut it down, chill for a couple of hours, get a good nights sleep, and go back to your life in good shape.  Live to trip another day.  If you keep going, I think you will regret it either physically or psychologically.  You may also reach the point (even within the time frame described) where the nitrous starts to become somewhat repellent, kind of sickly sweet tasting.  That's a good point to stop, so stop.  You'll thank me later.  Besides, your psilocybin has probably run its course.
  • And to reiterate, I consider this combination to be fairly safe.  The nitrous is kind of the odd man out among the other drugs, but by taking B12 and possibly other supplements, taking plenty of air (and you don't have to hit the N2O with every breath, right?), limiting the experience to 2-3 cannabis cycles and not doing it every day, I think the reward to risk for this ensemble is quite good.  In fact, considering the consistency with which I have been generating genuine mystical experiences for myself, the kind that are mildly rare even for experienced psychonauts, and which even then can be fraught with great psychological difficulty, I mean, this is pretty amazing.  Very reasonable doses of cannabis, shrooms, perhaps alcohol, and N2O.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Psilocybin leads to increased Openness


Or more precisely, mystical experiences while under the influence of psilocybin lead to increases in the core personality dimension of openness, one of five key personality factors that are thought to be constant throughout one's life.  So that's kind of big news, changing a trait that was thought to be largely fixed.

The researcher here is our old friend Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins who made the news a few years back showing psilocybin could induce mystical experiences under laboratory settings.  I've linked to that before.

The study covering openness was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, here is the abstract:

A large body of evidence, including longitudinal analyses of personality change, suggests that core personality traits are predominantly stable after age 30. To our knowledge, no study has demonstrated changes in personality in healthy adults after an experimentally manipulated discrete event. Intriguingly, double-blind controlled studies have shown that the classic hallucinogen psilocybin occasions personally and spiritually significant mystical experiences that predict long-term changes in behaviors, attitudes and values. In the present report we assessed the effect of psilocybin on changes in the five broad domains of personality – Neuroticism, Extroversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Consistent with participant claims of hallucinogen-occasioned increases in aesthetic appreciation, imagination, and creativity, we found significant increases in Openness following a high-dose psilocybin session. In participants who had mystical experiences during their psilocybin session, Openness remained significantly higher than baseline more than 1 year after the session. The findings suggest a specific role for psilocybin and mystical-type experiences in adult personality change.

While looking for the paper I stumbled across a podcast at The Secular Buddhist with Griffiths discussing psilocybin and meditation.  Haven't had a chance to listen to it yet.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Meditating in a Big Magnetic Tube

This is a followup to an earlier post on experiments at Yale on advanced meditators (4th Path, common definition of enlightenment) to determine any differences in the brain.  The Hamilton Project guys have put out an interesting podcast episode discussing their experiences with the Yale researcher.

They talk a bit about an area around the posterior cingulate that is of interest regarding the sense of self.  Posterior cingulate in green:



To tie it all together, the Hamilton Project refers to Bill Hamilton, author of Saints and Psychopaths.  Bill Hamilton mentored Kenneth Folk, and Kenneth (2nd site with media) mentored a bunch of people including Daniel Ingram of Dharma Overground, as well as Owen and Nikolai who participated in the study and are on the podcast.  Owen is still apparently doing the Hamilton Project website, and Nikolai has a site called Down the Rabbit Hole documenting his post path journey.  That should be enough links.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Self Transcendence

"Support for a neuropsychological model of spirituality in persons with traumatic brain injury" suggests that spiritual experiences are related to increased physiological activity of the frontal and temporal lobes and decreased activity of the right parietal lobe.

And similarly,
"The Spiritual Brain: Selective Cortical Lesions Modulate Human Self-Transcendence" finds that selective damage to left and right inferior posterior parietal regions induced a specific increase of self-transcendence.

And all that reminds me of "Religious and Mystical States:A Neuropsychological Substrate," some highlights on Andy Newberg's website, which describes more activation in frontal lobes and lower activation in the parietal lobes (where the sense of space and time are manufactured).

So overall, decreased activity (lower beta, higher alpha) in the parietal area seems to be important.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Various Thoughts On All This Stuff

  • On alpha EEG biofeedback with psychedelics
I'd say it has an influence, but perhaps slight. Based on the research I mentioned in an earlier post, the alpha state seems to be more associated with euphoria, and not so much with hallucinations and fantasy. And for whatever reason, I'm not getting much in the way of hallucinations. It amazes me that back in the nineties, with a 2 gram dose, I experienced closed eye visuals, and now with 6+ grams and nitrous oxide I'm not even getting that. I mean, sure, I'm getting the fabric of space and time melting away, but I'm not seeing other worlds or monsters. I would call it more distortion than hallucination.  I'd also say that my pre-alpha biofeedback trips had a substantially larger anxiety component, particularly my first trip which was on LSD.  Then again, I was young and psychologically less experienced.

  • Theanine
Theanine I can't really say. It's plausible that it would help similar to alpha biofeedback. Still a bit unsure about it's MAOi status. On wikipedia it is listed as a substance that should not be used with an MAOi, still not quite sure if it is an MAO inhibitor itself. Based on my last experience, my guess is that it is not.

  • Nitrous Oxide
N2O, classed as a dissociative, takes you beyond, but I personally find it somewhat "egoic." For me it seems to keep the ego or the narcissism strong up until the point where you actually go substantially beyond. I had experienced this before with cannabis and N2O, and had actually decided to abstain from it for that reason, among others. Coming back to it and using it a couple of times with psychedelics I felt like there was a learning process for letting go of that.

  • Photic Stimulation
The use of a light and sound machine, at least the light portion, makes a very fun addition to a trip. I recall reading Stanislov Grof describing how as a psychiatry student he took LSD as one of the first experimental subjects, and at some point they turned on a strobe light set to flash at his dominant alpha frequency. He described it as being "hit by a radiance that seemed comparable to the epicenter of a nuclear explosion, or perhaps the light of supernatural brilliance said in oriental scriptures to appear to us at the moment of death."

I can't say it quite did that for me, but at high enough doses the photic stimulation seems to provide a structure for the mind to compose amazing visualizations. At lower doses a stable alpha frequency was not quite so interesting, programs that varied the frequency seemed more fun. I found the lower frequencies of photic stimulation to be less interesting, but I do find that I sleep better after exposure to lower frequencies rather than high. And at higher doses a stable alpha frequency is just fine.

  • The Progress of Insight from Theravada Buddhism
My wild speculation is that this map of spiritual progress may come into play with psychedelics. Perhaps if you are in the ballpark of approaching the 4th nana, for example, the trip has a better chance of hitting all that 4th nana stuff, the big bliss and love stuff. Once you have solidly passed the 4th nana, then maybe you don't hit the bliss and love quite so much, maybe you could hit it big again if you make it past stream entry and get into the next cycle, or alternatively if you backslide.

  • The learning process
These trips seem to build on each other. Something "new" is encountered, then on the next trip what was once new and barely glimpsed becomes more familiar. I would definitely say any fears I have about tripping are substantially gone (famous last words, I'm sure).

After I became comfortable with tripping, a learning process in itself, particularly after my 2nd trip back, I was just dying to trip again. It's like I got some kind of glimpse or taste, and wanted to go back and see more, understand more. It's like I wanted to trip again the very next day, but grudgingly waited a few weeks to regroup and avoid any tolerance. But the last trip gave me some sense of completeness. Can't really say if I will go back, I kind of assume I might, but I do feel done for the moment. I got a decent glance at what I was looking for, maybe someday I will go back for another look. In Zen they have a map of progress, the 10 oxherding pictures. I feel like I at least caught a glance of the ox. Based on a few ethereal moments, I feel like I got the joke.

One way of putting the joke is that I kind of feel like I am writing to myself.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Trip Reports #4 & #5


Trip 4
100 mg theanine
2.3 gm psilocybe cubensis
nitrous oxide
alpha eeg biofeedback at T3 & T4

Trip 4 was a replication of the dosage of trip #1 and to try and gauge the effect, if any, of theanine in the light of my experience with higher dosages. And then adding nitrous oxide to that.

Nitrous oxide is a pretty big deal by itself. With cannabis, it becomes a bigger deal. With a psychedelic, yeah, that is indeed quite something. There were "flattening" experiences that tore the dimensions from 3 down to 2, and then ... what's to say. Beyond description.


I thought I was dying a couple of times. That might sound really horrible, but it wasn't. I was feeling good, and consciousness or reality was just kind of evaporating. I was in a space where I didn't really know, for example, whether or not I had, say, poisoned myself. I knew that there was a drug involved, basically, and then again I knew enough to know that maybe I shouldn't trust my f-d up mind. There was concern, but some reason to doubt that concern. It was an exquisite place really, and there was also a sense that if this was the end, so be it, this is it, nothing I can do at this point - so surrender, and go into ... whatever. And then ... so refreshing to be coming back to reality, realizing you are completely safe and well, and just breaking into laughter at the ego's little attachments about itself.

Hearing was cutting in and out. As consciousness, or whatever you would call it, evaporated, often all sound would cut out. As "it" returned, sound would cut in, and sometimes go away again. In everyday life on rare occasions I experience that while I am falling asleep or waking up.


Trip 5
300 mg theanine
6.2 gm psilocybe cubensis
nitrous oxide
alpha eeg biofeedback at Fz & Pz

Trip 5 boosted the dosage to new heights, beyond the 5 gram "heroic dose." Not really sure the theanine has an effect. Theoretically it is listed as an MAO inhibitor, which should inhibit the metabolism of the psilocybin and thus intensify the trip, but I'm thinking it must be a pretty mild MAO. At any rate, Theanine is of interest as it seems to help boost alpha waves. It might help keep things more relaxed and open.

For this trip, after my "near-death" experiences of the last trip, I spent some prep time getting it into my head that I was both safe and immortal for the purposes of this particular journey. And it seemed to work, I had no concerns or fear of death, but then again I think just the fact that I had already lived through it and came out okay is pretty well ground in me now.

So. About that ol' Trip 5.

Yeah.

I mean, there is this tendency to put things like this on a pedestal, but it was what it was. It's hard to explain how important that is, "it was what it was," that perspective. It's easy to miss the oblique reference to something beyond games or interpretation. This was not a blissfest, but there was bliss involved, and stress, the stress on the body. In the last post about massive doses of LSD the first guy says he was "all." That's a good description. Another would be the great Robert Hunter lyric, "wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world." Yep. Absolutely.


To be no different than existence itself, and to see it all play out, is quite something. Such a sense of wonder.

... that there is even a sense of wonder ...
that there are civilizations ... and odes to love and experience, all the joys and sorrows, all the different flavors.

to even have friends or "enemies"

to be beyond

When I start thinking about ego-death, sure, I don't even know, sure, maybe. Must be, right? When words are gone, when all that there is just is, and all the little games are gone and all is ... all. I mean, to even have an ego, right?

It's not even that it was that "great." It simply was. It's really nice to see it all from beyond the world of games.

After, I cried for a long, long time. I don't even know why.

I love all of you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Massive Dosing - the LSD Thumbprint


Honestly, I had no idea that such massive doses of LSD had been used. I came across a thread describing a "thumbprint" of LSD, a dose based on sticking one's thumb into pure LSD powder and licking it off, an amount equivalent to hundreds of doses, several milligrams of pure LSD (old school doses were typically 100 micrograms, sometimes only 20-50 mcg these days). Several people on the thread had supposedly taken this dose, typically described as an initiation of trust into the family of folks who lovingly supply LSD to the clan of deadheads, rainbow gatherings, etc.

[EDIT - just to be on the safe side, please understand that I'm not recommending this to anyone.  Just sharing interesting info from the thread linked above.  Personally, I'm a fan of small safe, reasonable doses.  Also, although I can't point to any super hard data, for whatever reason it seems that reports of long term problems seem to come more from LSD users, possibly DMT users, but not so much, if any, from mushroom (psilocybin) users]

What follows is a substantial amount of selected quotes from several people, mainly two individuals. [note that 1 mg = 1000 mcg]:

What's it like? - It's not possible to describe what it's like. Except maybe DEATH.

What did you see? - ALL

What did you do? - My body did nothing, but lay down. I was no more, just ALL

Eating LSD crystal is intense, magical, crazy and the ULTIMATE ACT OF SUBMISSION TO THE PSYCHEDELIC STATE

You feel it almost instantly. LSD crystal has an energy to it. Having a jar of it in my pocket is enough to alter my consciousness. As soon as it touches your skin or goes in your mouth you can feel it. A lot of folks will throw up within minutes. This is an exorcism of sorts. Like all the negative energy being cast out of your body. Then you lay down and learn. As for the experience I just couldn't do it justice to describe it. You're never the same again. A thumbprint doesn't open the door of perception it blows it off the hinges. You melt into eternity. You let go and die into the moment which is all. There is no you anymore only all. The intensity of this can't be described, but you realize as you're slipping away that it's familiar. This is because it becomes quite clear this is exactly what happens when you die. After an eternity you slowly start to come back in pieces. You feel reborn and a completely different person. You don't ever come completely down or back. This isn't a bad thing, but it's very scary at first.

It is hard to describe a thumbprint. Human language cannot describe an experience that encompasses all of life. Every cell of every creature or living thing that ever lived or will live is connected by the energy or light. When we die our body and our ego is gone. We become one with eternity or the light or God or whatever name you wish to call it. A thumbprint allows this to happen and return to our physical body. My first print I laid down and quickly realized that this was my actual death. You watch the whole process unfold with complete awareness. I didn't cling to my body I just realized my life had passed. As I was spiraling up or out I saw my life evolve through the years I lived. The happiness, the sadness, the people I loved and the people I didn't. The joy that I gave and the pain that I caused. I saw the true nature of reality and why things were the way they were. As I got higher I saw the nature of reality on the cosmic scale and saw that the reason for our evolution was to experience love. To love is to have experienced the finest of life. Then came the moment were it was time to let go. As I did it came for me and I sobbed uncontrollably for I realized that the light or energy we call god or creation was perfect. It was pure unconditional love.

What else could god have been I realized. That glint of innocent perfection in a baby's eye. The light was pure as the heart of Jesus Christ. I dissolved into it and died. Since there was no me only the all, I cannot remember the rest because there was no me to remember. After forever I slowly descended into my body. I spent days awake afterwards talking to myself. I vowed to god to spread LSD so others could see the light. I vowed to look at every person as the lord and treat them as such. I was reborn and continue to live by the values I learned.

LSD is a direct message from God. Period. I don't think we get another chance. We can love each other or we can kill each other, but it is up to us.

I feel high all the time still and it's been years.

I must stress that I was in the company of very evolved and older people that made sure my experiences were optimal. These were kind old spirits that had been where I was going many years before and many times. They held me as a baby every inch of the way.

You have heard of near death experiences right. A thumbprint is a beyond death experience.

It is something one cannot just "decide to do one day" and EVERYONE I know who has done it has had a pretty high LSD tolerance and experience level. It is more a symbol of trust than key to enlightenment as the experience is completely overwhelming and memory is scrambled between acid dream and "reality" with most of it blank. I had persistent imagery for several months and for the following week felt "rode hard and put away wet".

When I showed up at the trailer he had a funny grin on his face and he said "I hope you don't have plans." We went in and his old lady was there, unusual, and she was holding a small watch glass with the crystal spice in it. She said "honey it is time to grow up". They then told me to stick in my thumb and press. By then I was nervously curious and my hands were sweaty so I pulled my thumb free with a generous coating on it. I looked at it and I swear I could feel it starting then I stuck my thumb in my mouth and let go. The first hour or so I think I was in and out of the world then "I" just disappeared for eternity. IMO part of me still is there.

I am facing death due to a botched angiogram and I know I will meet with the part of me which rides the eternal winds when my time is over. I know that death is a mere transition, I know this because I died that day in late '78 and arose again reborn. My priorities of life were refocused and I have been working to integrate the new paradigm of being which was created by that day every since. I think if a lesson or enlightenment came from this it is that I consciously participate in my life to a much greater degree. This is not the "easy' way to live in a world of injustice and cruelty. I have been forced to accept the balance of positive and negative without imposing my own desire.

And I still must struggle mightily to integrate and exist in this society. My friends old lady said it was time to grow up but she did not say I would outgrow myself. I have absolutely NO regrets although the changes in my mind and thought process have made interfacing with traditional thinking a challenge.

Like China said every day I know I 'thumbprinted" but the funny thing is no matter how you rewire your brain life still brings the same challenges. I still have to stuggle with the challenges but I believe that I may have somewhat more novel solutions to some things than some others, but all in all I am remarkably Ward Cleaver considering.

One last thing, I have experienced literal death (heart stopped) and the irresistibility of death and strong psychedelic experience are quite similar. In Death one realizes the ineffable nature of the experience and resisting is futile, much like resisting a thumbprint, it is just NOT possible.

There is a massive difference between 500mcg and a thumbprint. They're not even comparable trips. As for saturation effect this is from medical research in the 50's comparing doses of LSD. There may not be a noticeable difference between 1000 and 2000 mcg. There is a huge difference between 1000 mcg and 40 or 50 mg. Of course the researchers never ventured into this dosage range.

Usually the person is deemed ready by those who can tell. They are taken care of before and after the print by the family, this may take up to a week before you're functioning again. Sometimes skeptics are printed, but their reactions are usually very, very shattering. It's hard when your whole belief system explodes and the truth is revealed. You basically have to start from scratch. All those years you thought you knew the truth and God, then in a matter of minutes you find you didn't know shit, then you die.

It's affected me on so many different levels. Mentally it has changed my whole outlook on life and my perception of the world. Spiritually it has given me the absolute faith in eternity that can only be had from being eternity. My philosophies are all based on my experiences. I no longer see the world as a bunch of separate species and things, but a connected matrix of biology and energy that flows to and from a core that is the pure light of unconditional love. Physically it's affected me in that you never come back down completely. But why would you anyway? You can't look at the truth and then pretend you didn't see it and that it doesn't exist. A thumbprint is a life long commitment. As for visual activity, it's constant. But I hardly notice it anymore. Eternity is in the here an now. So is my life, so they constantly flow together or against each other. Meditation is key for me now.
I no longer consider my physical reality my true reality.

I guess you could sum it up as Robert Hunter did after his night of 250,000 mcg, "I died 1000 deaths." That's what it really is, death. Most people live their lives unsure about what happens when we die. Even the most devoutly religious have anxiety about the big moment. I don't, I welcome it. That's how it's changed me.

The 50-500 mcg range will saturate the serotonin system however LSD also affects other receptors like dopamine and noradrenaline to a lesser degree, at ultradoses these effects come more strongly into play negating the plateau effect. The difference between 500 mcgs and 10000+ is incomparable as is the mode of ingestion. The change begins as the crystals melt on your tongue and is totally unlike eating a pile of pre-layed paper [blotter]. One senses his imminent ego death coming as the crystals are absorbed into the tongue. The knowledge that you are totally in the care of family is what one clings to as long as concepts such as family contain meaning then one is simply ... gone. When awareness returns it is changed and IMO forever. I have to laugh when Ram Dass says he "came down" - returning to sobriety is not the same as being unchanged. One does come down from a print but NOT UNCHANGED. I have had the privilege of speaking with Ram Dass on several occasions and to this older tripper his "mark" is as clear as if it were painted upon his forehead.

It's a feeling of energy. You feel it instantly. Especially after your first one. Your nervous system jolts to attention as if to say, "here we go."

On a thumbprint size dosage you no longer have any beliefs. There is no you. Reactions can vary on the way up, but soon all your beliefs, attitudes and perceptions completely vaporize along with physical reality. None of it survives a print. There is no I anymore only ALL. Afterwards your beliefs are very different or they may be similar if your beliefs were close to the truth to begin with.

People can bullshit their way through a lot of intense psychedelic experiences. Somehow they can hold onto their twisted ego games sometimes. On a thumbprint that's not even a possibility. You can't bullshit Eternity when it's blasting you to pieces. The more you try to hold on the quicker and harder it burns you. You dissolve and dissolve till there's no you left to hold on.

On a print you can go quietly and easily or you can go kicking and screaming, but you are going to go no matter what.

The thing about thumbprints is that after the first hour there is no you to create fear or trick your body into shutting down. We have taken BP and pulse of people on thumbprint size doses before and there is a slightly elevated BP and heart rate, but not too extreme. These were experienced people though, and there was no fear involved.

We can only speculate as to these hypothesis, as no studies will ever be done. The fact that these doses are usually only done by people ready for them greatly helps that there are so little negative outcomes. That's why I believe prints should be done in the mountains with family and not in a hospital like a lab rat.

One thing I have noticed is at print doses after the first hour when you have been vaporized and are completely gone breathing seems to stabilize. Before that the anxiety and fear have folks breathing like they're in a marathon. After they have let go though it seems that the body continues to function quite normally while there away. It's that first hour that's so traumatic.

There could be a dosage range though that can cause physiological harm. We don't know it and we never will, and people have survived more than a gram [that would be 10,000 x 100 mcg doses].

On a normal large dose of LSD there is the high visual activity, sensory alteration, synesthesia, ego loss, etc, etc. On a thumbprint it feels like you completely short circuit your brain. All cognitive function stops. Like pouring water on a breaker panel it pops, then all connections and activity are fried. The cognitive filter is shut off and eternity is able to creep in. Obviously all brain activity doesn't stop because you keep breathing and your heart keeps pumping. The brain stem, hindbrain, medulla, pons and cerebellum are probably not affected.

Just wanted to say again, this was a collection of quotes from a long thread in a forum on another site.  So the authors of those quotes are not here, although you are welcome to comment.  Thanks.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Meditation Changes the Brain

In "Enhanced brain connectivity in long-term meditation practitioners", new MRI-based imaging techniques (diffusion tensor imaging) reveal large scale changes in structural connectivity throughout the brain, not just in specific locations.

Also stumbled across a study by Davidson, "Buddha's Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation" that describes some changes in the brain due to meditation. Davidson uses neutral language to describe shamatha meditation as FA or Focused Attention, and vipassana meditation as OM or Open Monitoring. Changes were measured with fMRI and EEG, and seem to relate to qualities of sustained attention (FA) as well as the ability of the brain to remain undisturbed by phenomena (OM). The latter reminds me of Pa Auk's instruction to create a mind inclined towards abandonment, a mind that can let go of its attachments.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Path vs. Non-Path

Judson Brewer at Yale is doing research on post Path yogis to try and determine differences between the pre-Path and post-Path brain.  Path refers to the Theravada Buddhist map of the 4 Paths one must attain for enlightenment and specifically indicates a moment of "cessation" (one definition of nirvana) that occurs at the end of the meditative cycle known as the Progress of Insight.  Commonly yogis acquire the ability to access certain jhanas (pleasant concentration states) after attaining Paths, with 4th Path being a common definition of enlightenment, although 4th Path is not quite the end.

Owen Becker relates the story in Meditating In A Big, Magnetic Tube Part I from the Hamilton Project Blog.

Subjectivity in Hallucinogenic Research

Langlitz' think-piece, "The persistence of the subjective in neuropsychopharmacology: observations of contemporary hallucinogen research" had some interesting hallucinogen-research-porn:

When I arrive in the electroencephalogram (EEG) laboratory the experiment
has already started. The room is lit only by the computer screen showing the
subject’s brainwaves. Looking through the observation window I cannot see
anything at first glance. But as my eyes get used to the darkness I begin to
make out the shaven-headed Zen master dimly illuminated by the monitor
in front of him sitting bolt upright in the leather armchair. A tangled mass of
wires seems to be coming out of the back of his head disappearing in the dark.
Jan is a Swiss meditation teacher in his 50s, to whom has been administered
the hallucinogenic drug psilocybin to examine how it affects his ability to
meditate. The young neuroscientist who invited me to witness this measure-
ment in Franz Vollenweider’s Zurich laboratory ‘Neuropsychopharmacol-
ogy and Brain Imaging’ is excited: while meditating, Jan’s brainwaves are
particularly ‘calm’, he explains to me, showing comparatively strong activity
in the alpha range.

After the measurement, Jan looks serene and happy. The
researcher interviews him to learn more about the experience that went along
with those unusual EEG patterns. Jan recounts that at the beginning he saw
hideous faces and carnivalesque processions of ghosts. But then he remem-
bered the Tibetan Book of the Dead and reminded himself that these were
only projections of his ego. Eventually, he resorted to a simple mantra that he
had learned as a novice, a meditation over two words coupled with special
attention to the physiological processes of inhalation and exhalation. Thereby,
he managed to repel the spooky spectacle and was elevated to a ‘higher state
of consciousness’ culminating in an experience of oneness with the universe.
Much to his surprise and even disappointment this experience of cosmic unity
was associated with the name of Jesus. It must have to do with his upbring-
ing in a Christian family, he muses. He was relieved and delighted when subse-
quently thinking of Buddha further deepened this state of ego-dissolution.
Compared to his everyday consciousness, he says, he gained a much more
profound insight into the fact that the ground of all existence is love. ‘Divine
love’, he specifies, ‘or even better: being.’ This occurred to him as an eternal
truth: ‘It has always been that way and it will always be that way. When
reaching that state’, he tells us, ‘I thought: This is it! This is it!’ The state he
had been striving for during three decades of meditation exercises.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dose Response for Psilocybin

I took some of the data from the paper "Psilocybin occasioned mystical-type experiences: immediate and persisting dose-related effects" and put it into a spreadsheet to get some graphs.  A lot of the effects were surprisingly linear.  I normalized the data so that the 5mg amount for all effects was 1.0.  Overall I find the second graph more interesting in terms of effects measured and the fact that there was an acceleration from 10mg to 20mg, perhaps similar to going from 1.7 to 3.3 grams of dried mushrooms.