The cold, hard embrace of the floor

For the last three weeks or so, I’ve been sleeping at the foot of the bed. Like, on the floor. It’s been amazing!

I keep a wool blanket and a thin duvet underneath me to insulate and, well, soften it up a bit. Apart from that, it’s hard. I’ve learned to love it. It’s a sort of tough love I guess, because I still find a soft mattress really comfortable. It’s more of a support thing.

Allow me to explain.

I’ve long been interested in the paleo movement. At one point I was a total paleo ideologue, as I used to be a fierce vegan, but I’ve since put that behind me because culture and ideology are not my friends. However, even though I consciously abstain from identifying with ideologies, it doesn’t mean I can’t find meaningful concepts within them.

As you may know, the paleo diet (or caveman diet) is all about eating foods that we would theoretically have been eating before the agricultural revolution circa 8000 BCE. That’s what most people think of when the word paleo is mentioned, but the rabbit hole is deeper than that, because paleo can be expanded to include our entire lifestyle.

In the case of my sleeping on the floor, I reckoned that people probably weren’t sleeping on 2000 dollar memory foam mattresses during the last ice-age.

Sure, people probably used leaves and hides to keep themselves warm and comfortable, but the firm embrace of the earth was never far away. The problem with modern western sleeping habits is the lack of support.

After I started to wake up with all kinds of aches in my back and neck about a year ago, I began researching what could be wrong. I tried memory foam pillows, sleeping with a cushion between my legs, and what have you. Nothing helped, at least not much.

I eventually stumbled upon this little article on the way members of modern hunter-gatherer societies (these peoples’ lives are arguably very similar to pre-agricultural life) usually sleep. Strikingly, there doesn’t seem to be a usual way to sleep in these cultures.

In these societies, people often sleep wherever they happen to find themselves. On stacks of firewood, on fallen trees, or just on the ground.

They don’t sleep 8 hours in one bound, instead some will fall asleep very early, just after sun-down, and then wake again in the night for quiet reflection before eventually falling back to sleep. Interesting stuff.

What struck me the most was that it is in fact not only possible to not sleep on a mattress, but people have actually been sleeping on hard surfaces for most of human existence! As with so many other luxuries of materialist society, there’s a fine line between being comfortable and going way over the top.

Sleeping on a nice soft mattress is incredibly comfortable, but what are the consequences of sleeping on such a soft surface every night for thirty or forty years?

From my own, admittedly short, experience with sleeping on a very hard surface, I can say that I’ve been waking up feeling better rested, less stiff, and even less groggy. It’s not fixed all my back and neck pain, but it’s definitely a step up.

Another thing I read somewhere was that by lying on a hard surface, it gets easier for you to breath deeper into your abdomen, whereas on a softer surface your hips will sink down, effectively folding your body up and preventing full breathing. I’ve definitely noticed that, and I think it’s one of the main reasons I’m feeling more rested upon awakening.

This guy has loads of answers as to why sleeping on a soft surface is detrimental and ways to start to transition. You may be pleasantly surprised if you try it out.

Until next time, much love.

Who are you?

What does it mean to be me anyway?

We think we’re someone, but we’re not. Not really.

A large part of our body mass consists of bacteria and mitochondria, none of which share the DNA of our cells, the cells that make up what we consider to be ‘our’ bodies.

And even ‘our’ cells are constantly splitting, multiplying, dying. Not a single cell in my body is original. They’ve all been replaced. So where does that leave me?

It leaves me nowhere, to be honest. A man cannot step into the same river twice, as it will not be the same river, and he will not be the same man. The greatest paradox of being me is that I’m not me at all! All that holds this particular personality together is my memory of myself, my past. And we all know how unreliable memory can be.

I used to ‘remember’ the girl who used to babysit my sister and myself when we were kids, as being blonde. Then when I met her 10 years later she had flaming red hair. She said she had never in her life colored it, and had been a redhead when she was taking care of us ten years earlier. Go figure.

It may seem trivial but it’s not. If we can’t trust our memories, what can we trust?

I’ve been watching the new Westworld series, and it’s incredible. Poignant. Scary as fuck. I highly recommend it to anyone with even a minor interest in the nature of consciousness. A big part of the plot is the fickleness of memory, in androids to be sure, but the point remains the same.

Without self-awareness, mindfulness, are we just sophisticated machines? Like the hosts in Westworld? To paraphrase Anthony Hopkins’ Robert Ford, humans are just as stuck in their loops as the androids are.

When somebody has worked in the same office for ten years, going to the same bakery for a coffee and danish every single day, and then collapses into the same couch every evening to watch whatever bullshit show that happens to be on TV, is that somebody still somebody?

The more I develop my awareness in all its magnificence, the more I realize how asleep I’ve been, for my entire life, with the exceedingly rare pocket of consciousness here and there. During hardships and trauma, or moments of extreme beauty and kindness, we are pulled from our unconsciousness for seconds at a time, but without effort we fall right back into darkness.

In the words of Socrates, the unexamined life is not worth living. When I think of the hours, weeks, years that I’ve been unaware, I see that I may as well have been nonexistent.

Every day I work on expanding and solidifying my conscious awareness, because I see that it’s the only reason I’m here. All else comes and goes. Experience is forever. Now is eternal. There is no beginning and there is no end. Only here, now.

I intend to go higher and higher. I want to take you with me. There is immense possibility within us all, all we need is awareness. There’s a reason this site has the name it does. Because awareness is the path to true joy.

Much love to all, until next time.

Growth out of decay

I just got home from an Ashtanga yoga session and an interview for a job as a ranger/caretaker of a hut in the highlands of Iceland this summer. I’m still not fully over the fact that I’m healthy enough now to be able to work, play and love once again. Health is not something to be taken for granted.

After two years of a debilitating chronic illness that I talked about in my post A Midnight of the Soul, I’m finally feeling well again. In fact I’m starting to feel better than ever before. My life has changed so much. I’m more confident, loving and grateful for being alive than I’ve ever been. I’ve discovered a basic truth of being human: we will experience pain and difficulty, but suffering is a choice we make.

I’ve started to get back into the groove of making art. I was studying illustration at university before I finally had to drop out due to my illness, and since then I hadn’t touched a pencil or paintbrush until a few days ago. I started drawing again, and yesterday I even went to a model drawing session. Feeling a bit rusty but so happy to be at it again. Here is the result.

I want to start sharing more of my artwork here on Joy of Awareness soon, but I’m still learning the WordPress ropes and I’m in no particular hurry. I want to share it post by post, but I also want to set up a separate gallery at some point. But for now I’m happy to keep drawing and writing, creating content and hopefully somebody will enjoy reading what I have to say. This is all just a constant work in progress.

What I’m focusing on at the moment is building a daily drawing habit again. I’m trying to start slowly, because having experienced total and utter burnout in the aftermath of my darkest hour, I want to be extra careful. It’s difficult to explain burnout if you’ve never experienced it. Or maybe it isn’t that difficult. Basically I’ve loved art and drawing all my life, but after a long drawn-out battle with chronic illness and lethargy while simultaneously trying to keep up the habit of drawing every day, I started to positively despise it.

Strange that a hobby or passion can die down so completely. I felt completely lost, not knowing at all what to do with my life from now on, or whether the passion would ever return.

Well, apparently I needed a few months to regain my energy and allow my body to heal and my mind to rest.

Although dropping out of school was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made, it was also the best. I would not be where I am now if I hadn’t. I gave myself a chance to completely re-prioritize my life and to find love within. From that self love sprang the desire to share my triumphs and tribulations. Thus the Joy of Awareness.

I now once again feel the longing to communicate, the urge to express myself. In words and in pictures. I want freedom of expression for myself and for everybody else. I don’t know what the future holds for me, and in the first time in my life I don’t really want to know. All I do know is that whatever comes will be as beautiful and expansive as I allow it to be. And the more I develop my conscious awareness and skills of communication, the more easily I’ll be able to find the groove of any circumstance. Serendipity is an extension of expanded consciousness. I don’t believe in chance anymore.

I want this website to be a reflection of myself in some ways. I want to write about anything and everything that intrigues me or plagues me. I want to try to help others with lessons I’ve learned the hard way, but I also want to clear my own mind, in a similar way to journaling I guess. A mirror to my soul.

I see it not as a project ever to be completed, but rather as a stream of conscious appraisal and insight. I hope that with time and effort I will be able to reach more and more people, while at the same time developing within myself the confidence, skill and love needed to make an impact even more. Our existence is a constant journey of discovery and learning.

Much love to you all, until next time.

 

Value and prosperity

I’m slowly gaining confidence in running Joy of Awareness, even though I have no idea where I’m going with this. That’s okay. I reckon that so long as I’m doing my best to create a stream of valuable insights from my own mind straight into your eyeballs, I’m doing all right.

Which brings me to the topic of this post : Value.

I’ve been pondering the concept of value for a few weeks. What is it and how can I get more of it? And who’s gonna clean up? Well, I guess I’ll cross that last bridge when I get to it, but my theory is that there’s a sort of current or stream of value that we need to learn to tap into. And the way to do that is to create and distribute value.

I’ve heard versions this theory in different contexts throughout my life, but I always kind of imagined that it was only important for valuable people. You know, the cool kids, the models, the artists, the entrepreneurs and the inventors. Which is to say, I had no idea of my own inherent value, not to mention my accumulated value.

Let me break down my thoughts here: My inherent value is my value in simply existing. Existence itself is my most valuable asset, and it won’t be taken away from me except through death, and even then it’s uncertain. My very existence is valuable to those who love me.

Realizing my inherent value was the first step for me to realize the concept of my accumulated value, by which I mean the value that I’ve forged and added onto myself through my own efforts, so to speak.

I’m referring to skills and knowledge, for the most part. The more skilled I become, the more knowledgeable about the subjects I’m interested in, the more I’ll be able to create value and exchange it via the glorious stream of value for even more value.

Bear in mind that this is still theoretical, even though I’m doing my very best to implement this into my own life every minute of every day.

As soon as this idea started to take hold a few months back, that I essentially create my own value and that the more value I create for myself, the more valuable I become to others, I had a veritable paradigm shift. I started to look at my life and attributes in terms of their value to others. What do I have that could be valuable to other people?

Well, I’ve been constantly thinking about the power of awareness in all aspects of life for the last three or four years, so I’ve gathered quite a few beautiful insights along the way that I wish someone could have shared with me when I was starting out. That was, I felt, the place to start.

That’s why I want to run Joy of Awareness like a business. For sure, I’m doing this for myself as much as for other people, but I believe a business should always be focused on delivering value to people. Easier said than done, I know, but I feel in my bones that this is the way to success in life. If I live to serve, I will get all I need in return.

With every passing day, I realize that all the time that I’ve spent on my passions, hobbies and intellectual pursuits will pay enormous dividends as soon as I take the necessary steps to extract the insights, the value, from them. And I feel like the easiest way for me to do that at this period in my life, is to put them into words.

So, that’s why I started this website. As it matures I want to eventually expand this endeavor (note: when I learn how to actually make WordPress do what I want it to do, heh!) to include multiple streams of insights and value, such as visual art, videos, audio, maybe even music. I understand now that the most important aspect of all of this is to keep learning and keep taking action.

The way I see it, if ten people, heck, even one person actually gets some true value from what I’m trying to communicate, I will have succeeded. Of course, my goal is to impact way more people than that. I want to help in whatever way I can, and in return I know the cosmos will align to help me thrive and prosper.

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I love you all, now I’m gonna drink my tea.

Old age, acceptance, and the future of joy of awareness

I just came home from a week-long trip to Gran Canaria of the Canary Islands with my grandparents. They’re getting insecure in their frail dotage and asked me if I could come along and make sure they didn’t get lost or hurt or get into some kind of trouble. In exchange they paid for my entire trip!

It turned out to be a lot of work, but I enjoyed it immensely. The chance to get to know my wonderful grandparents better and getting a nice tan to boot. Gotta love life.

The whole trip taught me a lot about what old age actually means. As in, your body literally decays to the point where you can’t move around and travel the way you used to, and even your mental capacity begins to be pretty unreliable.

I’m pretty sure one can stay a lot healthier into seniority than my grandparents with a healthier diet and the right kind of physical exercise, but even so, time takes its toll.

My grandfather has very bad spinal arthritis, and he and my grandma have both had multiple hip and knee replacements. Their flexibility and endurance is pretty dismal. My grandfather hardly goes out of the house anymore, and he used to be very active when he still had his stamina. My grandmother has started to become very forgetful and her hearing is not what it used to be.

They know they don’t have much left.

Even so, they always seem to be happy, or at least content. They don’t often allow circumstances to dictate their emotional state. The reason I noticed this may be because I was actively looking for signs of conscious acceptance on their part, mostly because of what I learned in my horrific two year battle with topical steroid withdrawal.

So this trip was a wonderful opportunity for me to gain some understanding and insight on what’s to come in my own life, and I consciously took advantage of it.

On a different note, during my stay in Gran Canaria I did a lot of writing in my journal about my future. What do I want to do, to be? I started thinking more about my past and present as well. I’ve been recovering from the aforementioned times of trouble for the last few months, after two years of constant pain and struggle. I’m finally feeling more like myself again, although saying that makes me feel ridiculous. I’ve been born again.

I’m in no way the same man as I was before my midnight of the soul. I’ve been hardened and beaten in the furnaces of hell only to return, stronger than ever to this beautiful earth.

Before I was forced to quit school to focus on my health, I was studying illustration in the School of Visual Arts here in Reykjavík. I’ve always been immensely interested in drawing and painting, but suddenly I found myself despising art in general. I now see that I had utterly and completely finished up my energy for creative pursuits while battling the terrifying symptoms of withdrawal.

Now that my energy is slowly coming back to me, so is my interest in art. I started thinking about this website. What do I want it to become? What is its purpose?

Well, I want it to develop and evolve naturally. I started off seeing it as a sort of self help website, where I’d share my spiritual insights and other things I’ve learned through the years that I wish someone had shown me, but now I think I want to take it in a slightly different direction.

First off I want to add a section for my artwork, where I can post sketches, drawings and paintings with impunity (heh). I also want to change the format of the articles I write here. I’d rather make them a bit shorter and a little less how-to, and more sort of stream of consciousness and, well, freer.

I still want this website to focus on awareness in all its infinite facets, but I want to take it in my own personal direction. I want to write about what fascinates me at any given moment. I also want to open up the modes of communication. Visual communication is amazingly powerful, not to mention incredibly fun for me to produce. I’m very excited to see where life will take me.

So stay tuned, I’m going to make this site into an incredible source of insight and inspiration, to say nothing of 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.

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.

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!