Virgin Voyage: My First Psychedelic Experience

psychedelic experience reaching the void

A Recount of My First Psychedelic Experience

This definitely ain’t Kansas.

As some of you are already aware, the totality of my drug experience (not to mention my psychedelic experience) throughout both high school AND college consisted of four beers. I suppose I should point out that the term “beer” is used lightly here, as they were really four bottles of Little Kings Cream Ale.

Seriously, I was that straight-edge (before that was a term) and vanilla, up until I was 24 years old.

Although slightly painful to admit, I was a Midwestern Country Bumpkin when I arrived in San Francisco, sight unseen, to study Religion and East West Psychology at The California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).

Although I had obtained my BA in philosophy with additional foci on religion and psychology, I somehow missed the books and lectures on mystical experiences, induced both by various techniques and the use of drugs.

That all changed at CIIS, as there was a corner section of the library dedicated to the topic of the psychedelic experience for enlightenment. Mind you, that wasn’t the exact description header for those two bookshelves, but even I could figure it out.

It was like porn to me.

Like real, old school porn, before the Internet; when it wasn’t so easy to obtain, and that seemed to exponentially increase both the desire and appreciation for it. That’s what this new and tasty information was for me… Enlightenment Porn.

But I digress…

My new corner of the world included works by

  • Ram Dass
  • Alan Watts
  • Terence McKenna
  • Timothy Leary
  • Stanislav Grof
  • Aldous Huxley
  • And other such visionaries

I found myself intuitively drawn to The Psychedelic Experience: A manual based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner & Richard Alpert (Ram Dass).

psychedelic experience book

In short, this book guides you through the stages of the Tibetan Book of the Dead; but instead of physical death of the body, you experience death of your own ego. You get a glimpse into the Void.

It was a book that was a bit frightening and yet somehow comforting. You are instructed on what to expect, the most favorable ways to react, and how you never really know what you’ll get. I suppose it could be summed up with “Calm The Fuck Down (CTFD) and let it take you where it will”.

Of course, I was enthusiastically encouraged and joined by my brother-from-another-mother, Big Toe, for this voyage.

As this was our first psychedelic experience, we studied as if we were prepping for our PhD dissertations. We followed the manual as if God had written it herself, and got down to perfecting both the “set and setting”.

This included:

  • Securing quality LSD
  • Setting the date, location and friends who would be close by, if needed
  • Meditating several times a day for two weeks
  • Deciding our main intentions for the trip
  • Fasting for two days
  • “Manscaping”  – this might seem unrelated, but we figured that if by chance we attained enlightenment and left our mortal vessels during this trip, we wanted them to look good for those who would mourn us (open casket, nude). You know the saying “You never get a second chance to make a last impression”.

It’s Game Time

So BT and I sat there in the front room of this SF Victorian (just a block off of the famous “Painted Ladies”, I might add) and went over our checklist for the tenth time (at least).

It was mid afternoon, but the room was dimly lit, because we had blacked out all the windows with thick sheets, just some daylight peeking in around the edges. We had the manual, of course, but also a few various religious items – I had a Buddha statue and BT had some blue Hindu baby.

psychedelic experience baby Krishna

Related: Why I Fucking Love Krishna?

So, after a 20-minute meditation, we each slammed 500 mg of LSD into our mouths. I know that 500mg might seem like a lot, and I suppose it was. But we were intent on “breaking through” and after attending a Terence McKenna lecture; we were all about “heroic doses”.

Play By Play Psychedelic Experience

Ingestion – 30m (or so): Laying flat on my back on a futon, with my eyes closed and focusing on my breathing.

31m – 1hr: There began to form a magnificent kaleidoscope of colors, shapes and forms across the canvas of my inner eyelids. The show wasn’t simply visual, as I first took it to be. There was a story to it all. It was The Story. It was letting me in on something; almost the feeling of a backstage pass, if you know what I mean.

The colors and images were moving too fast to consciously understand, yet it was clear to me that the lesson was indeed how every single thing in the world is related, interrelated to be more accurate.

I wasn’t “hearing” this lesson, nor was I “seeing” it with my traditional senses. Yet somehow it was being communicated to me and absorbed by the very fibers of my being.

Having experienced how everything is just part of a much bigger picture, it elicited from me a profound response:


psychedelic experience laughter

But not just a run-of-the-mill laugh, though, not even what might be called a gut buster. This was a roaring laugh from the deep bellows of my soul.

What exactly was so funny, you might ask…

And so begins the doomed-to-failure attempt to convey in words that which cannot be spoken, and must be experienced.

So many great writers/explorers have come back and attempted to capture and coherently convey their experiences to those that have not yet taken the journey. I am neither a great writer nor explorer, so please adjust your expectations accordingly…

I suppose I was laughing at my ego. When the understanding hit me, that is to say that when it became inherently clear to me that the concept of “me/I” was an intricate piece of an infinitely larger organism, and that everything, literally everything, that happens to me is a part of the larger processes of this beautifully symbiotic whole.

This understanding wasn’t of a big machine, with the concept of me being a cog in a wheel. But rather a fluid and well-orchestrated continuum à it was clear to me that this was LIFE.

And what was so funny was the fact that I ever get “worked up”, fearful or depressed about any of it. Or that if I do experience any of those types of emotions, that I actually believe them, instead of accepting them and experiencing them while they are present.

I distinctly remember the feeling of “Holy shit, this is how it all works!”

1hrs – 3hrs: This segment of the trip was highlighted by many visual hallucinations (or perhaps visual insights).

It became apparent that I was much more inclined towards visuals than BT. It can get rather humorous when you desperately attempt to get your trip partner to see your hallucinations.

The following is partial list of my visuals:

  • Lying on my side, looking intently at my right hand. It began to morph into what I intuitively knew was the hand of an African-American female slave. The visual representation was detailed; the hand beaten up and dirty from picking cotton in the fields for years. But again, it was even clearer from my feeling, I simply knew this to be the case. I cannot say with any accuracy how long I stayed with this experience, but I did spent some time within that body, and went through a “day in the life”, if you will.
  • BT and I were sitting up looking at each other. Because of his weak visual abilities, I can only assume that I looked like my usual handsome self. However, I was seeing him as he would (will) be at 70 or 75 years old. I explained to him that, all things considered, he looked damn good. He still had a full head of hair, slicked back and in a ponytail. As of this writing, 25 years later, his hair is still thick and bountiful. I’m jealous and he’s a bastard.
  • This next one that I’ll share, is the first time that I was really glad we had prepared for anything, and kept in the forefront of our minds that “anything that appears is there as a product of our minds, and there is nothing to fear, just breath into the experience and ride it out… perhaps figure it out later”.

That was important to keep in mind, because as I was once again lying down on my back, I felt a tickle on my ear and then some rather loud breathing. Without having to look, I knew without a doubt that it was a lion.

Yep, that’s right, a fucking lion.

psychedelic experience lion vision

My heart rate naturally increased, but as I was able to relax into the experience, it lowered again, and there seemed to be an equal rate decrease and rhythmic stabilization to the breathe of the lion.

I figured, what the fuck, I like cats. At the time BT and our two roommates had a total of four felines, and as this writing, I live with six of them. So I slowly reached back and felt the fur of its mane, and began petting it. Then it began to purr. We shared that moment together for what seemed like 20 minutes.

Welcome To The Void

psychedelic experience void

3hrs-6hrs: This segment went close to our plan and anticipation i.e. Ego Death.

To experience the death of your ego, even when it is sought after and expected, and even with the knowledge that it will only be temporary… is exciting, confusing and utterly terrifying.

There I was, sitting on the edge of The Void.

Perhaps “suspended” in the Void would be a more accurate description, albeit still completely incomplete as a true conveyance of the experience.

It was like I was in one of those images from deep space. But writing that I was “in” something immediately falls short, because there was only one thing… and it was Nothing and therefore Everything.

I had been exposed to this concept in my studies, and had what I thought to be a solid theoretical understanding of it. And I actually liked the concept. I could talk about it at great length (with the ego loving every minute of it).

But it wasn’t until I entered the Void and became one with it, that I had any sense of what I had previously been rambling on about for years.

It is only when the death of the ego is complete (temporarily, in my case, of course) and you realize that you are nothing; not just something other than you thought yourself to be, but absolute nothingness, that the infinite potential reveals itself.

For when you are nothing in particular, you are at the same time everything.

Looking back now, it was certainly the closest experience I’d ever had of switching perspectives from looking at the finger pointing at the moon, to being the moon.

The  Psychedelic Experience: Dissention

6hrs-12hrs: Again, this segment of our journey unfolded more or less as we had studied and anticipated. However, that didn’t mean there weren’t times of confusion and transitional distress.

The first thought that I can recall of my ego working its way back into my consciousness was:

“I wonder how I’m going to be able to be HYD next week.”

I was slowly coming back into this relative reality, and for some reason thought about my day job – waiting tables in a restaurant. And I was truly perplexed at the time, wondering how in the world I was going to be in the world again.

The overwhelming emotional question was WHY.

psychedelic experience why

Why would I play that role, or any role for that matter?

These thoughts led me to contemplate some of the theories as to why psychedelics were criminalized; without a sense of separateness, without a sense of fear, would the government be able to control the masses.

Those theories are for another blog post.

But suffice it to say, that as these thoughts continued to surge forward and populate my consciousness, I began my transition into the accepted relative reality.

Post Psychedelic Experience Integration

It would please my ego immensely to inform you that I was able to process all that I had experienced from this fantastical journey, and integrated it seamlessly into my thoughts, words and deeds in the everyday world.

But alas, I was young, dumb and full of… (you know that saying, right?).

That is not to say that I was unchanged, but rather that it was much more subtle than I had hoped. Our study guides had made it clear that we’d just get a glimpse behind the veil, not permanent residence there. But one can hope, and hope I did.

My hope was to return and live in the world with the totality of wisdom that we are all One, and with that wisdom have every action be automatically in line both with my karma and God.

Is that too much for a guy to ask?

Apparently it was too much for this guy, at least at that time.

How can I describe the subtle changes in my consciousness? Poorly, that much is for sure.

I was aware, from time to time, that I was able to catch myself being attached to something, and that it was important only because I chose to make it so. This enabled me, on still somewhat rare occasions, to be able to “chill out” about things. This perspective was more deeply rooted than a mere intellectual understanding of this principle. After all, that perspective has been around forever, but it never really consoled me, until after my first psychedelic experience.

So I would say that I did return to this relative reality a changed soul, just not so much so that anyone, sometimes including myself, would notice.

Related: The Spirituality Of Psychedelic Drug Users (Psychology Today)

I was fortunate to have a soul mate accompany me, and share the same passions, intentions and OCD-like detail to preparation for the voyage, as I was so inclined. I feel that I did the best that I could with the trip, considering my life experience and spiritual maturity at the time.

Perhaps the next trip…

Related: My Second LSD Trip – 25 Years Later

Peace Out,

Hairy Yogurt Das


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