Freedom from shame

I’ve been trying to figure out a nagging feeling these last few months.

A feeling that’s been coming and going since I can remember, a sort of low, barely noticeable humming tightness and pressure in my throat and belly.

Through vigorous self examination through writing, meditating and psychedelic trips, I think I’ve finally been able to pinpoint exactly what it is: Shame.

I’ve discovered the this feeling of shame has been influencing me way more than I care to admit. Not the kind of burning-cheeks, watery-eyes kind of shame. More of a constant low level stress or anxiety.

The kind of shame that sits with you, even when you think you’ve accepted yourself.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know exactly how to handle this kind of shame. I’ve been doing some experiments on myself, to try and see what the answer might be.

An honest life

What’s given me the most relief has been honesty and sincerity. To myself especially, but also to some extent to those around me.

One of my major shamers that I managed to single out from the torrent of self-judging, is the nature of my sexuality. I know I’m not alone in this. It’s no secret that sex is taboo in western culture, even though we simultaneously venerate it through media and advertising.

What’s been causing me shame? Well, I’ve finally decided to admit and accept that I’m not a totally straight dude. What that means, I don’t know. All I do know is that I don’t fit into the labeled frame of heterosexual male.

And I’ve known it for years and years, but somehow I kept repressing it, hoping it would go away.

Accept yourself as you are

Admittance and acceptance are conscious decisions, they are not arbitrary. We have way more control over the way we feel than we realize.

After admitting it to myself I decided to admit it to my girlfriend, and later to my best friend.

Both of them were totally fine with it, which says a lot about the quality of my loved ones. It was a great relief, in fact way more of a relief than I initially expected. The proverbial load-off-my-mind has been very tangible.

Now I still have some way to go before I’m fully shame free, but this has been an important first step to my mind.

I have a lot more digging around to do regarding my sexuality and what I want to do about it, and I can feel that there are other issues that I need to get off my chest, but that will have to wait until I’m fully ready.

Coming to terms with the fluidity of my sexual interests has really intrigued me, especially because of how much it had been weighing down on me without me actually noticing.

It’s like if you’ve been carrying a ten pound backpack on your shoulders for ten years straight, without ever taking it off, you’ll eventually stop noticing that it’s there.

And you won’t be able to imagine the incredible relief you’ll experience when you finally manage to shrug it off.

The magnifying glass

One other thing that I’ve noticed, is that working with shame can actually magnify the feeling before actually being able to release it.

When I started poking around in the recesses of my psyche, looking for the shamer, the feeling of shame started to become pretty strong, way stronger than the low humming from before.

When I finally admitted my shame to myself and accepted it, it felt like something was trying to burst out of my chest. I felt like I just had to tell someone, anyone. And the combination of acceptance and sharing released the tightness in my throat, and the pressure in my abdomen.

I started feeling a wonderful feeling of self-love. I’ve been cultivating self-love for some time and it’s been increasing gradually since I started, but this was like a boost, like an injection of some beautiful loving chemical into my emotional veins.

I understand now that the more shamers I discover and disarm, the more I’ll be able to love myself and others. This will be the main work in my journaling efforts until I release them all.

What can I do?

For those of you that want to experience the wonderful release I’ve been describing, it will take some work. Don’t be discouraged though, every journey starts with the first step.

Make a decision, a decision to write in your journal every single day, however little time you manage to scrape up in the beginning.

Write whatever comes to your mind. At first it will be superficial and facile, but it’s like an onion : The sweetest, juiciest layers are deep within. With time and patience, you will reach the core of your being, and at that point all the work will be repaid with interest.

If you’re up to it, you can throw some psychedelics into the mix. Be careful that you know what you’re doing though. They can be incredibly therapeutic but only when approached with respect.

A human being is a complicated thing, at the same time as it’s a beautifully simple thing. There are many facets, many different things to examine and observe, but at the center there lies a soul, so pristine and perfect that you won’t believe that this wonderful thing was to be found within you all along.

Whatever your past, and whatever happens in the future, you can decide to forgive yourself and others for all wrongdoings, and especially for your wrongbeings. You will eventually find that existence is perfect exactly as it is. We only suffer because we allow ourselves to do so.

I wish you luck on your own shameless journey of self acceptance.

Much love.

3 Wonderful benefits of journaling

I just finished a journal. I mean, the pages in my physical notebook are full. Full of my handwriting. Full of my deepest secrets and insecurities, and full of my most profound insights and aspirations.

In celebration of that fact, I want to delve even deeper into the magnificent art of pouring your heart out onto sheets of processed wood chips.

I guess the most obvious question to ask when starting any habit would be why should I?
And that’s perfectly valid. You should have at least some idea of what you want to get out of something before you put in precious time and energy.

However, I want to try my very best to convince you that keeping a journal is definitely worth the effort.

The benefits of keeping a journal are too numerous to count, but a few have become exceedingly obvious (and welcome!) in my own life. Here are my top three:

Increased emotional intelligence

My understanding of my own feelings and emotions has improved so drastically in the past few years that I can hardly believe it. I’m sure many factors have had roles to play, but journaling stands out to me.

I feel like keeping a journal has given me a chance to really get to know my thought patterns. And following my thought patterns, analyzing them and breaking them apart has allowed me to gain great understanding of what drives me, what scares me, even what horrifies me.

I keep hitting new walls in my own self-inquiry, even if I feel like I’ve finally got it all figured out. These new walls can sometimes be circumnavigated, sometimes I can jump over them quickly, but some walls need to be broken down, brick by emotional brick.

Using a journal to lay out my fears and expectations in a clear way has enabled me to end toxic relationships, push myself out of my comfort zone and travel to distant countries. It’s even helped me to discover my own negative thought patterns, and subsequently to break them with affirmations.

Writing in a journal is like polishing a mirror. The more you polish, the clearer your reflection, and the better you will be able to know who you are and why you’re here.

Which brings me to point number two.

Clearing the path

Journaling has been a way for me to discover what it is that I truly want out of this life, this existence on planet earth. Not to say that I’ve got my life all figured out, but I’m way closer than I was before I started keeping a journal.

Before I started serious self-inquiry and meditation, my negative beliefs and thought patterns were like tangled branches in a forest, blocking my view of the stars.

They drastically limited my possibilities for happiness and fulfillment, and my trusty journal has helped me to sneak some pretty profound peaks through the foliage. In some cases I’ve even been able to remove them completely.

A clear path, and a strong sense of direction in life, have been some of the most powerful benefits from my daily writing habit. Never before have I been so driven to accomplish anything in my life.

Every day, my sense of purpose becomes stronger and more tangible. I want to serve. I want to provide others with value, the same value that I’ve discovered for myself through my own hard work. I want to be free. I want to be happy.

It seems simple when I put it like that, but it took a long time to realize these truths deep in the core of my being.

And that’s the essence of my last point:

Profound inner change

If you take home anything from this article, let it be this: deep personal transformation is possible through hard work.

If I were to meet a five years younger version of myself today, I would not like that guy. There was just so much not to like!

But through difficult emotional work and hours of frantic writing, I’ve transformed myself into someone I not only like, but LOVE unconditionally. And I know that anyone can do it, with the right mindset and the right tools.

I broke a terrible addiction to video-games, healed my crippling need for external validation, and cleared out the mental cobwebs preventing me from functioning as a healthy human being.

So many things have changed and improved. And every day they get even better. All thanks to journaling, in large part.

When you’ve managed to remove all the unnecessary stress, all the limiting beliefs and negative thoughts, everything becomes clear. Awareness expands. Consciousness manifests where none was to be found.

The proof is in the pudding. You will never know the wonders and sheer bliss of journaling without trying it for yourself. I really hope you will.

The real challenge is to just start. Just find a piece of paper if you don’t have a notebook at hand, and a pen, and start writing. Anything! Flow of consciousness. Write what comes up into your mind. If you can’t think of anything to write about, write “I can’t think of anything to write about”.

You just need to get the habit started. Like a snowball rolling down a mountainside, gaining momentum and speed as it goes along. Keep it short and sweet at first, just a few lines if you don’t feel like writing at all.

I promise you, if you stick with it, you will be richly rewarded.

Much love.

 

 

 

 

Your habits will make or break you

Motivation is fleeting, habits are solid.

We all have habits. Unfortunately, most peoples daily habits are highly arbitrary. I know mine used to be.

Anything can become a habit.

If you think negative thoughts every day, soon enough it will become a habit. If you never miss a day of brushing your teeth, that too will become a strong habit. If you drink a liter of water first thing in the morning, every morning, a habit will form.

The human mechanism is incredibly complex. There are so many different ways to move and think, so many different things to do. So a part of our brain power goes into discerning what actions we need to do most frequently, and allows us to sort of set it on autopilot.

That’s what allows us to drive a car without consciously thinking about it, or sing in the shower. It’s way more efficient that way, because conscious action takes effort.

The brain makes it easier for us to do those things that we do a lot. That’s why it’s easy to brush your teeth with your right hand and almost impossible to use your left. Switching hands like that will require a conscious effort on your part.

But it also becomes easier to actually make the decision to brush our teeth, as long as we’ve done it every day for the last three years.

This is all pretty common knowledge. We’ve all heard of the notorious 21 days required to instill a habit. But that misses a crucial aspect of habit building, which is reward. You can poke your hand with a needle for 21 days and be absolutely ready to drop the habit the next day, because there’s no inherent reward in that action.

The most powerful thing you can do when trying to build any positive habit, is to clearly discern what the reward will be. Visualize it, make it so that every time you do the action, you see yourself reaping the inevitable rewards.

Exercise is a good example. I like calisthenics, or body weight exercises. When I’m actually in the middle of doing the exercises themselves, I’m normally not enjoying myself too much. But I keep the image of a stronger, healthier version of myself in my mind the whole time. And it pushes me through the times when I have little motivation.

Or going out for a run. Sometimes I just don’t feel like it, but when I weigh the rewards, like the wonderful feeling of runner’s high, or being out in nature, or better sleep from burning off excess energy, I go out anyway.

In my experience, the most difficult habits to cultivate are the habits with the most intangible benefits, like meditation or keeping a journal. Although we’ve all heard of the increased focus and calm tranquility from daily meditation, it’s hard to imagine the benefits when you haven’t actually experienced them.

What worked for me was to break those habits down to the smallest possible amount of work. So with meditation, I would decide to meditate for just 5 or 10 minutes at a time, once a day. It’s such a short amount of time that you’ll only experience a tiny fraction of the possible benefits, but at least you’ll experience something.

With journaling, you would start with a paragraph a day. Or even just a sentence. Just to get a feel for it, and for the possibilities hidden within that particular action. Sooner or later you’ll start to actually want to write more and more. I’m up to 3-4 pages a day, and I’m not sick of it yet!

That’s the real starting point. You really need to know where a habit will take you before you can convince yourself to go all in.

That’s all well and good, but what about our bad habits?

Those are more tricky to navigate. Sometimes they’re so subtle that you won’t even notice them at all before someone points them out to you.

I used to have incredibly negative thought patterns. Pure habit. As far as I knew, everybody’s thoughts were negative like mine. Well, that was a major misconception. Many people think negative thoughts habitually, but many more think positively. And it’s a way more enjoyable way of life.

We may not always be able to control the thoughts that come up in our minds, but we can choose which thoughts to cultivate. We can choose where we direct our attention.

Awareness is the first step to overcoming a bad habit. If you don’t know that you have a bad habit, there’s no way to break it.

Of course, there is a big difference between a bad habit and an addiction. Quitting nose-picking is quite a different beast from quitting heroin. Addictions most often have an intense biochemical factor.

But breaking a habit of negative thought patterns for example, doesn’t have to be too much of a challenge. Recognizing the habit is half the battle.

In the case of negative thoughts, what was most beneficial for me was replacing the negative patterns with positive ones. Enter affirmations. That’s all affirmations really are, replacement thought patterns.

The only reason negative thoughts have such a hold on the mind is because of repetition. You’ve repeated the action of cultivating negative thoughts so much that it’s become like brushing your teeth: automatic.

So it stands to reason that if you allow yourself to repeat positive thoughts often enough, the will eventually replace the negative ones. I urge you to try it.

Awareness is the most important ingredient for building habits consciously. The power of awareness really can’t be overstated. Awareness is the difference between a human being and a machine.

Cultivate your awareness, expand it, and be grateful for this incredible opportunity to reach for the stars.

Much love.

Keeping a journal – The ultimate tool for self-inquiry

Along with cultivating a habit of daily meditation, keeping a journal is one of the two pillars of my journey self-actualization.

In some ways, journal is just a fancy word for diary, but in other ways it means so much more. I see a diary as a more superficial version of a true journal. A diary is a place where you write what you did today, where you went, interesting events and so on. A journal goes deeper.

A journal is a place where you go into the meaning of your life. Your aspirations, fears and your wildest dreams. It’s a tool for working with emotions and insecurities. And above all, it’s a tool for inquiring into the nature of your being.

I’ve kept a journal for the past five years. As with most of my life transforming habits, I started out unsteadily. I didn’t write every day, and I didn’t dive deep. It wasn’t until I started writing daily, and from the soul, that the true potential of journaling revealed itself to me.

Your journal should be your best friend. A friend with whom you will share anything and everything. I now write things in my journal that I wouldn’t even share with my girlfriend or my actual best friend. I write things that are exceedingly difficult to think about or even acknowledge.

I write about my sexuality, about my dreams, about my past. I endlessly go over the possibilities in every given situation. I console myself when I feel bad. I pump myself up when I need to go do something.

A journal is like a mirror, and the more you write, the more you polish that mirror. You see your reflection clearer and clearer. I’ve polished a decent amount of grime from my mirror, but I still have a way to go. I want to go deeper every day. And every day I write, is a day that I get closer to acceptance and understanding.

I’ve also been able to blow away the chaff, so to speak, regarding my aspirations in life. All too often, we think we want something in our lives, but really we’re doing what we think we ought to do, or wanting what we think people should want.

In my own life, most often that means wanting something that’s acceptable to society, or my parents or even my friends. I decided long ago that I wanted to break free from cultural restraints and to live honestly and in sync with my true wants and needs as a person. And my journal has been indispensable for finding out what I truly want in life.

A more down to earth reason for starting a journaling habit is that you’re effectively practicing communication.

I’ve improved my speech and writing by leaps and bounds by sticking to my journal. My mind is more organized. I can formulate thoughts way faster than before. Words come to me when I need them. Not always, but way more than before.

Communication is the cornerstone of fulfilling relationships. My communication is in no way perfect, but the more I’m able to be honest and reliable to myself through my journal, the more I’m able to cultivate those qualities in my relationships with others.

In the end, what I want from all this is the capacity to synchronize my thoughts, words and actions. I’m not there yet, not fully, but I know I’m on the right path.

So where to start? For the first thing, find something to write on! I recommend getting a nice notebook, not one of those cheap ugly ones with terrible paper, but a proper little book. Something that inspires you to treat it with respect.

In my years of keeping journals, I’ve used pen and paper, an app called Journey (which is great), and I’ve also recorded some entries on my phone. All of these work, although I keep coming back to the physical pen and paper approach. It feels more stable and secure I guess, but to each his own.

As with building habits in general, the most important thing is consistency. Even if you only write three lines a day, you’re making progress. Doing a little every day is always better than doing a lot every now and then.

A habit creates momentum. Momentum will keep you writing even when you don’t feel like it.

Our habits can make us irrelevant, or they can make us invincible. It’s our own choice, all things considered. Sometimes life gives us a cold splash of water in the face, or sand in our eyes, but it will be our habits that help us through the tough times and journaling will give you a new perspective and a way to internalize the lessons that existence is trying to teach.

Your life is your own. Do with it what you see fit. But first, you need to see clearly. Make your journal a priority.

Check out my post on the incredible benefits of meditation, or the awesome power of psychedelics. Or maybe you’re interested in the right way to use affirmations.

On loving yourself

When we’re feeling down or insecure, we’re sometimes casually told to “just love yourself!”. But how can we move from a conceptual understanding of self-love, to the beautiful state of experiencing it directly?

As we go through life, we often forget that existence itself is, in fact, bliss. While we’re busy chasing the next great thing to make us feel good about ourselves, we ignore the fact that we are enough, exactly as we are.

I believe the reason most of us have a hard time with accepting and loving ourselves, is because from early childhood our society instills in us the idea that our value as a human being is tied to our attainments and our capacity to meet cultural expectations.

But I maintain that the very fact that you are here at all says infinitely more about your inherent value.

Of course I don’t mean to say that working towards the good of others is unimportant. Nor do I mean that attaining good things in life is a bad thing. What I mean is that whether or not you achieve these things, you always deserve your own love and acceptance.

From a place of infinite misery

For most of my life, I positively despised myself. I may not have known it at the time, but looking back it’s glaringly obvious.

I blamed myself for every negative thing in my life. I must have caused my parents’ divorce. I must be doing something wrong since I don’t easily make friends. I must be the catalyst for all the anger and resentment in my family.

As children, we are not equipped with the faculties of reason necessary to navigate the ups and downs of life alone. For that, we need healthy, attentive and loving mothers and fathers.

When families break apart, when fathers leave and mothers resent, and siblings grow angry, a child will instinctively blame herself. And this blame, this guilt, will stay with her for her entire life, until she faces it and resolves it.

I had all this hate for myself and others, but I guess I didn’t show it. It burst forth in me as an adolescent in the form of depression, anxiety and addictive behavior. I learned techniques to hide these shadow aspects of myself, like acting confident, smiling and laughing when inside I felt dead. Fake it till you make it, essentially.

It wasn’t until I fell into horrific chronic illness that I was forced to face these shadows head on. And it hurts. Don’t underestimate the pain that’s accumulated in repressed emotions.

A repressed emotion is like a pus-filled zit. When you start poking and prodding, some disgusting, vile stuff will ooze out. It’s unpleasant and you’ll want to stop. But you need to let it out.

But when all the gunk is out, you can put on some healing salve and a band-aid, and you will feel a lot better.

In the same way, facing the darkest, most unsettling memories that shake you to your core, is unnerving and terrifying. You’ll want to stop, to leave them alone. To try to forget them. But deep within, you know it has to be done. They have to be faced head on, and accepted and finally, loved.

In order to fully love yourself, you need to love your most hated memories.

In pursuit of love

For myself, the memory I recount in my article on Journaling is one of my most harrowing experiences. There are more, to be sure, but that one used to chill me to the bone.

When I was actively working with that particular memory, I would put myself in my nine year old self’s shoes, do my best to fully experience what I must have been experiencing back then, and then, when it got most unbearable, I would look for that feeling of love and compassion within my grown-up self and channel it to him.

From Tolli of 2017 to Tolli of 2001. Love is the most powerful force in the universe, and its potential for healing is unparalleled.

Love is all

Later on, I used psychedelics to further work with my repressed emotions, and most recently I’ve worked with visualization exercises that I designed specifically to help me love myself.

I call it a love meditation. It’s simple, really. I just lay back for about 10 or 20 minutes, calm my self down and allow myself to relax, and become centered. I then proceed to actively search for a feeling of love inside me.

Sometimes it helps to think of people or events that fill me with love, sometimes it’s enough to just intend for the feeling to appear, and it will. I experience love as a warm, weightless sensation in my abdomen. When I feel it, I start to allow it to infuse my entire body.

Every now and then I’ll even think “I love you, I love myself, and I accept myself fully” and variations of that, just for good measure. The direct experience of the bodily sensations of love are the most important to my mind.

I encourage you to spend as much time as you feel you need on these pursuits. Whether you realize it or not, finding that deep, deep love within is the most important factor in manifesting true happiness and fulfillment in life.

Like all things, love comes and love goes away. Experience is ephemeral in all aspects. There isn’t a single constant that I know of. However, I’ve found on my own journey that the better I understand this fact, the less I suffer from it. The pain is still there, but the suffering is not.

When you find that beautiful feeling of love for yourself, be sure to share it. Sharing love only increases its intensity.

The incredible benefits of a daily meditation habit

Our habits are what defines us. Personality, dreams, and appearance are transient, but what we do every single day makes us who we are.

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

-Kurt Vonnegut

One of the most beneficial daily habits I’ve developed in my own life, along with keeping a journal and affirmations, is the habit of daily meditation. I’ve already outlined what meditation has done for me and how it’s helped me grow here, but I want to go more in depth into the mechanics of making meditation a habit and why it should intrigue you.

A boring enterprise

To those who are approaching meditation for the first time, it’s boring as hell. Sitting in quiet solitude doing nothing for any length of time is the opposite of interesting. But meditation is a curious blend of doing nothing and experiencing everything.

Why do we meditate? We might say we do it because it calms us down, that it brings us into the present moment, or it helps us to organize our mind-space. All of these things are relevant and highly important.

However, the main reason that I decided to make meditation a permanent part of my life is that I’ve learned that the possibilities that lie in expansion of consciousness are limitless. A being with full control of its awareness is a formidable thing.

It’s in the nature of awareness that we cannot know what we don’t already know. So the only way to find out is to sit down, close your eyes and seek the Truth with a capital T.

I’ve now been meditating for a few years semi-regularly and for the last year or so I’ve made it a daily habit, and the benefits are monumental.

It’s hard to put into words the love and awe that’s been instilled in me through observation of what is here, now. In fact the only way to understand the power of meditation fully is to do it. Or better yet, be it.

Baby steps

But how can we develop this habit? Well, as I mentioned before, to the beginner meditation is boring.

How do we make a habit of something that’s boring? When I was a kid, I developed the habit of doing my homework right after school. I would tell myself “Just 30 minutes, right after school. Then I can play”. And that’s the key.

Or actually it’s two keys; Decide when and where, and set a time frame. My advice is to start meditating in the evenings first, only for a very short period at a time. Even just 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Don’t overextend yourself.

The reason I recommend the evenings instead of mornings, is that we’re more likely to be in a hurry or have a lot of other things to do in the mornings and it’s easier to just brush it off. You may even find that sometime after work or school, in the middle of the day, might work even better for you.

Most important of all though, is to do it every single day. Don’t miss out on a single day!

You want to build momentum. If you meditate three days in a row, then miss the fourth day, you’ll be way more likely to miss day five, and even more likely to miss day six and so on.

But after 30 or 50 or 100 days in a row, you’ll want to keep going. You’ll naturally want to avoid breaking your streak, and each day will become easier and easier.

I’ve now meditated for more than 300 consecutive days, and skipping my daily meditation doesn’t even cross my mind anymore. That’s what I want for you, too.

Time well spent

As for increasing the time spent on meditation every day, don’t worry about it too much. It’s really a kind of natural progression. The more you meditate, the more you’ll want to meditate.

I progressed from 10 minutes a day to my current 2 hours a day without much thought, although it took some years and a lot of dedication on my part.

I can promise you one thing though. If you manage to make this a habit, it will change your life in profound and unexpected ways.

The beauty of the present moment experienced directly becomes more apparent to me with every passing day. As I noted in a recent trip report, I had a sort of enlightenment experience while meditating during a psychedelic mushroom trip, and while psychedelics can be beneficial to your spiritual practice, you’ll want to develop a highly attuned awareness of every day life as well.

I was filled with awe at the simple fact that I exist at all! Wouldn’t it have been much more natural, much more sensible for the world not to exist, for there to be nothing? Reality seems like such an extravagance, yet it’s an extravagance that I’m eternally grateful for.

All too often we go about life in a rush, a panic even, skiddily going from one thing to the next, seeking fulfillment in the most elusive fashion, yet when we manage to truly stop and be here now, we see that we have everything we need.

It’s like the story of the beggar under the tree. All his life, the beggar prostrated himself under a high oak tree. His life was short and filled with suffering. At the time of his death, some of his fellow beggars came together to bury this unfortunate man under his tree.

After digging for a while, the other beggars struck something hard and hollow. They dug it out. It was heavy! It turned out to be a treasure chest, full to the brim with gold, silver and precious stones! The poor beggar had lived his life in poverty and despair, and all the while he had been sitting on a fortune! If only he had taken the time to look.

And so it is with us. We seek and seek, hoping to find something to give us meaning and fulfillment, when the entire cosmos is within us. We have everything we could ever want, right here, right now. If only we take the time to look.

You may be interested in reading about my insights and experiences regarding Single-Pointed Meditation, as it can really benefit the rest of your self-inquiry and spiritual practice.

I love you all, and I wish you all the best.

 

 

How to use psilocybin mushrooms for healing

Psilocybin mushrooms are amazing in so many ways.

They allow for unparalleled introspection, dissolution of hard-wired boundaries and insights into the ultimate nature of reality.

Be that as it may, the most important aspect of magic ‘shrooms for my own spiritual development has been their incredible propensity for working with trauma.

When I was growing up we moved a lot. We never stayed in one place for more than two years until I was 17, and I never managed to spread my roots so to speak. When you move around like that as a kid you quickly learn that making friends will bring nothing but misery in the end. So you close off.

Then when I was seven years old my father decided to come out of the closet, after being married to my mother for eight years. They promptly filed for divorce.

The effects on her where devastating, and on our family as a whole. My mother met a few new boyfriends after that, one of whom beat her, another was a raging alcoholic and sort of dragged her down into alcoholism with him.

Seeing one’s parents in constant psychological pain is not ideal for a young child, and so I started developing some deep rooted fears and insecurities for myself. These included a chronic lack of self-confidence, painful shyness, problems with commitment and making friends, and overall low self-esteem.

I know loads of people deal with the same issues and that’s why I’m so passionate about spreading the word on the incredible potential of psychedelics for improving psychological health.

A history of ambiguity

In the sixties, psilocybe mushrooms and LSD were used, in a clinical setting, to treat people with PTSD, alcoholism and other addictions, and much more. The results were incredibly promising, but the danger of societal upheaval was what frightened the authorities, and psychedelic substances were outlawed.

In my own adventures with ‘shrooms, I’ve experienced profound healing of all of the psychological problems I listed above, but especially the problem of low self-esteem.

You see, when you discover how integral, how important you are in the grand scheme of the universe, there’s no reason anymore to think lowly of yourself. I’ve seen that from where I’m standing, nothing would exist if it wasn’t for me!

It may sound narcissistic but it’s absolutely true. My direct experience of reality is tightly bound to my existing in the first place. It’s difficult to grasp this idea when it’s new to you, but it’s changed my life in endlessly beneficial ways.

Now to the core of the matter. HOW?

Preparation

The times when I’ve experienced the most healing trips of my life, have all been well planned out beforehand. I would begin by writing down the actual issues or memories I wanted to work with and ponder them deeply, before actually ingesting anything. Preparation is incredibly important.

Make sure you’re in a safe, quiet and comfortable space. If you want you can play some tranquil music, although I prefer silent darkness.

A spotter, which just means a sober person that you trust, who makes sure you have everything you need and will calm you down in case of anxiety or distress, is nice but in my experience not necessary.

Definitely turn off your phone and make sure that you don’t have anything important you need to do for the next 6-8 hours or so. Setting is key. The way you prepare your environment can make or break your trip.

Now, after deciding what you want to focus on during the trip, prepare your mushrooms. Depending on the type of mushrooms, dosages will vary. I’ve exclusively used liberty caps in high doses, so around 2-3g of dried caps. There are plenty of resources for dosages of different types and more info on preparation, for example here.

I normally make a tea, so I steep them in hot (not boiling) water for 10-15 minutes. I don’t actually eat the mushrooms anymore, as it upsets my stomach. Then after drinking the tea I retreat to my tripping space and sit in quiet contemplation until the effects start to become apparent.

Live again

When I start feeling the tingling sense of well-being, I start thinking about the issue or memory I decided on. If it’s a memory, I try my best to actually re-live it in as much detail as possible.

As an example, I focused on the traumatic memory I wrote about in my article on journaling during a recent trip. I sat in darkness and put myself in the shoes of my young self. I tried to keep my attention on the memory until the peak of my trip, and at some point I started crying a lot, repeating again and again “all is forgiven, all is forgiven”.

And that’s what we’re aiming for here, total and utter forgiveness and acceptance. Of yourself, and of those who have wronged you. The relief from releasing a traumatic memory like that is profound.

While I can still consciously remember the event, the feeling of repressed rage and grief is gone. Its hold on me is broken. I am free from its negative influence. I forgave my mom for losing her temper at me, and I forgave my family for not coming to my aid.

But most importantly, I forgave myself for whatever I imagined I had done wrong in that moment. For not being good enough, for not reacting the way I should have.

I am now free to focus on what I choose to focus on. And although I don’t want to start using psychedelics for every single traumatic memory, I think they can be powerful tools to work on our deepest rooted hurts and hang-ups. So happy tripping!

I hope this article helped someone to have a wonderful healing trip and to overcome difficult feelings. If you enjoyed this you may want to check out my article on affirmations, and the right way to use them.

 

 

The primacy of direct experience

To quote Terence McKenna, culture and ideology are not your friends.

As I go through this life, living in this society, experiencing what western culture has to offer, I am constantly rediscovering the truth of those words. Culture perpetuates itself for its own sake, not mine. Ideology has no interest in my well-being.

Society is an entity, an organism all its own, and just as the death or mutilation of a single ant in an ant-hill is irrelevant to the continuation of the whole, so too does society keep up its pretenses even when the individual suffers.

It’s harsh, but it’s also true.

Truth

Truth is something that increases in value to me as an individual as I mature and grow wiser.

A truth we have to come to terms with is that society loves you, and is indifferent to you, simultaneously. It gives you clothing, shelter, food, and all the amenities of the western world, but it also oppresses, shuns and punishes those who think outside of the box, or those who dare to defy it.

Jordan Peterson often speaks about the dual aspects of human society, found in the Jungian archetype of the King. The King Father protects, loves, serves his people. The Tyrant is oppressive and punitive. Both aspects are integral to all societies. All existence, in fact, is polar, dual. Pain and pleasure, love and hate, up and down, soft and hard.

A slap in the face

During my midnight of the soul I was suddenly confronted with the idea that western medicine didn’t in fact hold the answers to everything, and that many aspects of its ideology where dogmatic rather than scientific.

I had been using a medicine for more than a decade, a medicine that I had been assured was safe and beneficial. It turned out to be nonsense, and I now view most of the drugs proffered by western doctors to be poisonous rather than medicinal.

What I was experiencing was an ideology gone rogue, where even though many doctors know of the deficiencies of western allopathic medicine, the ideological system itself refuses to change.

This seems to happen in all corners of the world, wherever there are enough of us that come together, cults spring up out of the swarms of human beings, whether we call them institutions, churches or establishments. They may exist harmoniously, ethically, and for the good of the whole to begin with (or they may not), but sooner or later they weaken and become corrupt.

The Catholic Church is the most obvious example that comes to mind, although the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Roman Republic are a close second.

So that’s all pretty depressing, but where the hell am I going with this? What can we do?

Break on through to the other side

My first reaction to the realization that society didn’t actually care about me as an individual was depression and lethargy. I felt betrayed and deceived. And I think that’s a pretty common first reaction to a shattered paradigm. But as time passed and I had a chance to allow the idea to sink in, my depression gave way to a feeling of freedom.

Just as society doesn’t conform to my every need and want, I don’t need to conform to society’s expectations.

I guess this idea had popped up in my head every now and again, but never in such a profound way. A clear principle was born, a principle that now governs my life : Believe nothing, except direct experience.

Direct experience

I no longer take anything at face value. I decided never again to trust any source. We’re told we can trust doctors, teachers, clergymen, politicians and police officers. We’re told we can take what they say as a god-given truth and fuck the naysayers. Well, it’s just not that simple.

Everyone makes mistakes some of the time. Everyone lies some of the time. There is no such thing as a “trusted source”.

This doesn’t mean I need to reinvent the wheel or live in a cave. I absorb ideas, tinker with them, experiment with them, and then and only then will I either implement them in my own life or scrap them. But I don’t accept anything as “truth” before I’ve experienced it first hand.

That’s why nowadays I give little credit to most scientific research. Although admirable in many ways, modern science has, to my mind, a fatal flaw: it’s unverifiable by the common person.

A biologist may publish a paper connecting this bacterium to that disease, or name the exact protein that causes an effect somewhere else, but there will be no way for me to verify it!

I’m not a biologist, I don’t have a microscope, and even if I did I wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of what I saw.

The only way I can approach truth in this manner is to take the ideas of others and test them myself. That’s not to say that I oppose all ideas that I haven’t tested myself, or can’t test for myself. All I’m saying is I don’t accept it as truth just because it comes from a specific source.

Ultimate reality?

Strictly speaking, our experience of reality is the ultimate reality. Our heads are full of concepts about the physical world that we will never be able to fully verify, yet we accept them as truth. Direct experience is the only way to know anything. At least you will know what you are experiencing.

That’s why I’m so interested in psychedelics. They have shown me that my everyday experience of reality is not the only way to experience reality. There are mysteries so profound, so evanescent, so transformative, that my eyes tear up just imagining what’s out there, what’s possible.

That’s also why I’ve built up a firm meditation habit. Meditation is a less intense, though more permanent, way of getting in touch with direct experience. The importance of understanding that you are IT cannot be overstated.

Once you realize your own potential, the incredible places your consciousness can take you, you will laugh at the ideologues and the dogmatists.

You will be living an observed life, to paraphrase Socrates, which is the only life worth living.

 

 

 

Affirmations and the right way to use them

When discussing self-development, the concept of affirmations gets thrown around a lot. But what are they really? Do they actually work, and if so, how can they be used effectively?

I’ve meditated on affirmations extensively, and done a fair bit of digging around on the subject, and I want to expound my ultimate theory of affirmations.

In essence, affirmations should be used to confirm (affirm) what already is, rather than to try to change it. What do I mean by this?

Well, for example, let’s take myself. I’m by no means tall, at 173 cm. I wish I were taller sometimes, but nowadays it doesn’t bother me too much. If it did still bother me, a good way to work through my insecurities about my height would be to create an affirmation, and repeat it to myself as often as possible.

But this is where it gets a bit tricky. What should the actual words in the affirmation be?

Wishful thinking vs. Reality

There are some who say that it should be something like, I’m six feet tall, or I’m growing taller every single day. This is the wrong approach and it will not work!

You’re trying to change something obstinately physical and unyielding, your physical self through language alone, and it’s a hopeless task.

That said, I believe that pretty much anything could be manifested with powerful visualization skills, but that’s neither here nor there.

An affirmation is composed of words. Words are conceptual, they are not reality. Thoughts are composed of words, and thoughts are also conceptual. It stands to reason that affirmations are to be used to change thought patterns.

So, the right approach to the problem of being insecure about my height would be to address the insecurity, not my height in itself.

What actually works

An affirmation like every day, I accept myself exactly as I am, or even I’m more confident about my height every passing day, is not only reasonable, it’s going to be effective. With some caveats, to be sure.

Whether affirmations work or not depends entirely on one question. What do you expect affirmations to do?

If you expect them to enable you to materialize a million dollars or add on 10 pounds of muscle with no effort, they won’t work.

If you expect them to strengthen your resolve, break negative thought patterns and help you build a habit of positivity, then they absolutely will work!

In the beginning of this article I said that an affirmation should be used as confirmation of reality, rather than as a catalyst for change. So to make sure that our affirmation works, it needs to have some truth to it, or at the very least the potential for truth.

Saying I’m six feet tall to myself and then measuring my height, and seeing that in fact I’m not six feet tall, will not only not help me with my issue of insecurity, it will be actively detrimental.

Saying I accept myself as I am, or I accept my height, and then feeling that “Hey! I do feel a little bit better about my height!” will create a powerful upward spiral of thoughts and emotion. However, it takes time. A few days or even a few weeks will not be enough to break a mental habit that’s taken years to establish itself. Give it some months, repeating it to yourself multiple times a day. Make it a habit.

My own story

All I can say is that about a year ago, during an incredibly difficult period in my life, I made affirmations a daily habit, and they helped me tremendously. I wouldn’t even be writing this article if I hadn’t started affirming my reality.

I have eight affirmations that I repeat seven times, twice a day. I’ll even share them with you, feel free to use them for yourself or better yet create your own. My own affirmations are:

I am free from all addiction

I am healthy, wealthy, and content

Every day, in every way, everything gets better and better

I love myself unconditionally

I feel my inner peace deepen every day

Riches flow toward me from all directions

I am conscious and mindful

I deserve all good things that come my way

I feel a deep love towards these affirmations, because looking back I can see the incredible benefits of taking control of my thought patterns. Repetition is key. Perseverance is the other key. But most important of all, is the aspect of acceptance.

Accept what is, and all else will fall into place. Forget what you want for a moment.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a better life, but in the end, you could have all manner of material manifestations and the way you think would prevent you from being truly happy.

Just look at all the incredibly unhappy, yet immensely rich, beautiful and “successful” people all over the world, case in point.

In conclusion, affirmations have been an essential aid in allowing me to stop experiencing existence from a place of  fear, and instead allowing me to cultivate love in all aspects of my life. I wish you all the best on your own journey.

You may be interested in reading about the Bliss of Keeping a Journal, the Wonders of Meditation or even the Awesome Power of Psychedelics!

 


 

On single-pointed meditation

When I first started meditating seriously, I exclusively practiced Vipassana, also known as insight meditation, as taught by S. N. Goenka at the Vipassana retreat centers around the world.

My first foray into the world of Buddhist spirituality had been a 10-day retreat at the Dhamma Neru center in Catalonia in November 2013, so I wanted to give the technique its due. And there’s a lot to be said for Vipassana. It has multiple subtle and not-so-subtle effects and benefits, as I listed in a previous post. However, at some point I decided that I wanted to focus on honing my attention in order to better practice Vipassana and other techniques I would discover in the future.

So while looking for resources to help me do just that, I stumbled upon the book The Attention Revolution by B. Alan Wallace. It’s a book that outlines the Vajrayana Buddhist approach to attention training and calming of the mind through single-pointed meditation, known as Samatha.

To be honest I didn’t really like the way the book was set up, in eight steps or grades of focus of attention. I also felt a bit discouraged a few times throughout the book, as the author often implied that true progress in Samatha couldn’t be attained without prolonged silent retreat, and I mean more than a year at a time. Even practicing two hours a day, he said, wouldn’t really do much for you, or at least that’s how I interpreted it. I don’t mean to question his understanding of these techniques, but surely everybody needs to start somewhere, and a little bit of meditation is vastly better than none at all.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s full of wonderful insights and helpful information for those looking to improve their concentration and attention spans.

I’ve now been practicing the techniques outlined in the book for about three months, the first two months I sat for about 30 minutes up to an hour a day, and for the last month or so I’ve kept up an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening, or two hours daily.

I want to share what I’ve learned, how I’ve improved, and some important aspects to practicing Samatha that became more obvious the more diligently I practiced.

Focus

What I instantly noticed was that single-pointed meditation, such as following the breath, can lead to some incredibly peaceful and focused states of mind, more so, or at least in a different capacity, than I’ve experienced with Vipassana meditation. For those unfamiliar with Vipassana, it normally consists of some sort of body scan or body awareness element, along with observation of sensations in a mindful, non-judgmental way. By and large, attention is diffuse, spread out throughout the body. Not so with single-pointed awareness.

A good way to understand the difference between the two approaches is through analogy to a light-source. Vipassana meditation is like candle flame or a lantern, flickering, shining light almost equally in all directions, while single-pointed meditation is more like a flashlight, or even (preferably) a laser beam, that can be directed to wherever the meditator wants it to go.

You can experience some very calm, peaceful states through body scanning techniques, but in my experience not the same intense focus, at least not as readily. I should point out that while single-pointed meditation focuses on developing attention, there is a mindfulness element to it, just as there is an attentive element to Vipassana, so both techniques will develop multiple facets of awareness and ultimately they complement each other in important ways.

Relaxation

“Meditation is a balancing act between attention and relaxation.”

– B. Alan Wallace, The Attention Revolution

Something that became increasingly apparent to me while practicing single-pointed meditation, and which Wallace points out in the book, was the importance of full body relaxation.

Any tension anywhere in the body will dramatically reduce your ability to focus. It’s so important that nowadays during a session, if I feel that I’m having a hard time concentrating on my breath, I will immediately do a quick body scan to see if I’ve tensed up somewhere. More often than not, I will discover a tightened muscle somewhere, usually around my eyes or in the jaw area, and take half a minute to relax once more.

Funnily enough, I started to connect different thought patterns to tension in different body parts. For example, when worrying about daily affairs or past and future events, I would tense up around the eyes and forehead. When remembering events that caused me anxiety or stress in the past, I would feel a tightness in the abdomen. And if I found myself thinking aggressive or even violent thoughts, which happens more often than I care to admit, I would hunch up my shoulders and tense my jaw.

These tensions are very much tied to their correlating thought patterns, but it goes both ways. So in the same way that specific thoughts seem to cause specific tension, mindfully releasing the tension in the body will result in a calming of the mind and releasing of the thought patterns. Interesting stuff.

Access Concentration

A few times in my practice, I experienced a state that I later found out to be named access concentration. It’s a state of intense, unwavering focus and deep calm and serenity. For myself, each time I experienced it I felt mildly ecstatic. It only lasts at most for a minute or two at a time for me as of yet, but the first time I attained this state was a real boost for my practice, and gave me a lot of clarity as to where my meditation habit is leading me. The possibilities are magnificent, unspeakable.

“I suggest that if you were able to focus your attention at will, you could actually choose the universe you appear to inhabit.”

– B. Alan Wallace, The Attention Revolution

As Jack Cornfield says in the article I linked to, I felt the state of access concentration to be very shaky and unstable, in the sense that it was difficult to maintain and I couldn’t readily find it again once it had passed. I expect that with further practice and perseverance I’ll become more familiar with it and be able to settle further into calm attentiveness.

So what now?

I just started an 8 week mindfulness course, and I intend to focus on the techniques I learn there in my own practice at home for the duration of the course. I’m confident that my work on my concentration will serve me well with various other techniques. I see concentration as a sort of keystone meditative factor, in that it will complement all other spiritual practices. After the 8 week course is finished I’ll make a decision on whether I want to continue further with the mindfulness practice I learn there, or if I want to focus on Samatha again.

At this time in my spiritual development I feel the need to get to know many different techniques and practices and learn what I can from each tradition. Maybe at some point I’ll want to really center in on a particular approach, but until then I’m content to dabble around.

I sincerely hope these insights have inspired you in your own practice or helped in some way. All the best on your own path.