A different kind of trip – The way of St. James

For the last few days, I’ve been anxiously planning an upcoming trip. Not a psychedelic trip this time, but a different kind of trip nonetheless.

I’m planning on walking the Camino de Santiago starting April 5th, an 800 kilometer pilgrimage from the French-Spanish border near the Pyrenees to the town of Santiago de Compostela, where the alleged remains of St. James, an apostle of Jesus Christ, lie.

The walk itself will probably take me around a month to complete, with 20 – 30 km daily. I’ve never walked this far in one stretch in my life, and I’m a bit nervous, but most of all I feel invigorated. Looking forward to a new kind of adventure.

By the way, I’m writing this post on March 13th, but it’ll probably be released in late April, so I’ll be more than half way to Santiago at that point if all goes well.

As I’ve mentioned in several posts already, I’m finally (almost) in full health once again after two years of horrific illness. This pilgrimage will mark a new chapter in my life. I feel like the last few months have been all about getting me back on my feet after a rough tumble, and I’m just on the verge of being able head out into the wide world once more.

I’m going to approach this trip as a pilgrimage as opposed to ‘just a long walk’, in the sense that I want this to be a way to expand my limits, mentally and physically, at the same time as I acknowledge the transience of my existence. Maybe that’s not the traditional meaning of the word, but that’s the meaning I choose to give it in my own mind.

I’ve been working hard at instilling powerful habits in my life these last few months, and I’m going to have to let go of some of them. Out with the old and in with the new as they say. I’m going to keep meditating and affirming, drawing and journaling, but I’ll have to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. Some days will be wet and cold, others warm and dry.

Some days I’ll have a moment to my self, others I’ll be surrounded by people. Some days I’ll be exhausted from walking for miles on end, and others I’ll be full of zest. My plan is to accept all of this and meet these different moments with loving awareness.

Then again, people say this pilgrimage has a way of throwing all plans out the window. So I’ll just go with the flow.

I’ll start off with a short trip to Riga in Latvia with my mother and sister, where we’ll stay for three nights. Then off I go to Albania where I’ll meet up with my lovely Sylvía and we’ll have some fun together in a strange new setting for another two weeks or so. After she flies back to Iceland I’ll head to Bayonne and from there to St. Jean Pied de Port, where I’ll start my walk.

Then when I come back home, I want to write all about it. What I’ve learned, what I loved, and who I met. So stay tuned.

Until next time, much love.

 

A midnight of the soul

Human beings are marvelously adaptive.

We can survive incredible hardships, injury, stress and despair.

Everybody has an identical imperative in life, whether or not we realize it: to maximize happiness while minimizing suffering.

Everything we do is in some way an expression of this rule. We work because we want to avoid the pain of being broke and not affording food and shelter. We play because it gives us pleasure, or sometimes it’s a way of replacing or overcoming a negative feeling.

But sometimes, our circumstances become so unbearable that our methods of balancing our emotions just don’t cut it anymore.

These last two years, I’ve been dragged to the pits of hell and back. Or at least that’s the way I experienced it. All experience is relative to all other experience.

In the summer of 2016 I realized that a feeling of unease that had been nagging me for six months had been pointing me towards a simple truth: I had been poisoning myself since I was a teenager.

Allow me to explain. Most people who either have eczema or psoriasis or any other skin disease, or have someone close to them that does, will have heard of corticosteroids, widely known as hydrocortisone cream.

Well, what most people don’t know is that these medications, if relied upon too heavily, may result in horrific rebound effects lasting for months or years. It seems that only a minority of users ever experience this, but as fate would have it, I found myself a part of this unlucky group.

On June 17th 2016 I quit cortisone creams cold turkey, the beginning of what’s termed TSW or topical steroid withdrawal, and what ensued was the most horrific rollercoaster of pain, misery and despair that I’ve ever experienced in my life.

For about 18 months I couldn’t sleep at night due to bone-deep itching, which I duly scratched until I was bleeding all over the sheets, along with intense heat flashes and nerve pain. During the day I was bright red all over, I was shedding skin in bucket loads, and in constant pain. Eighteen months! It truly pains me to recall the worst of this.

For the first year or so I kind of willed my way through working as a ranger in Ásbyrgi national park in north-east Iceland during the summer, and then through university, where I was studying illustration.

I never really admitted to myself how incredibly sick I had become, and looking back I should have taken time off right from the beginning to allow my broken body to rest.

I never had the energy to do anything other than do my best to finish my assignments, tear myself out of bed in the mornings and in my free time I would basically lie around doing nothing, since staying motionless made my painfully tight skin feel almost bearable.

My social life absolutely disappeared and I had started my descent into deep depression.

I finally reached my breaking point in the beginning of October 2017, after 14 months of struggle. I quit school and started to stay home. It was the most difficult decision I had made in a long time.

It was also the best decision I ever made. I finally allowed myself to sleep in (the worst symptoms came around midnight and then settled down by early morning), and take it easy around the house instead of stressing over school.

Depression can be incredibly sneaky. Initially I felt so much better from not having to tear my bleeding body from the sheets early every morning, but it was an ephemeral respite. Before long I was questioning every aspect of myself and my life.

Despite finally giving my body the rest it needed, I became restless, anxious and agitated. I felt like a failure. I felt like I would never get better. I felt like I was destined to be a broke, angry old man that never got a chance to actually live his life.

Thankfully I never had serious thoughts of suicide, but I started to have a troubling fascination with the concepts of death and dying. I read the book Who Dies? By Stephen Levine, which is one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. I would constantly think about existence after bodily death. My girlfriend started to become worried about leaving me home alone.

I’ve had bouts of depression before, and man, I thought those were bad. But they were minor annoyances compared to this. Before long I had gone from hardly sleeping at night and forcing myself to wake up at seven every morning, to staying in bed until well after midday.

Life had ceased to have meaning. I was smoking weed almost daily, playing way too many video games, and jerking off to porn in between. A sad excuse for a human existence. I had no confidence at all, even around the people who love me the most.

Lest this article become too much of a downer, let me tell you what this experience has given me.

I’m not out of the fire yet, but I’m feeling so much better, physically and mentally. In some ways, a life is like a tree. The deeper the roots of our sorrows, the higher the lightest and happiest branches of our lives can reach.

Meditation has helped me in profound ways, and so has keeping a journal.

In my own life, I can see this principle clearer every single day. Whatever happens to me can be reduced to the status of a minor annoyance by the smallest remembrance of the suffering I’ve endured. And the happy moments, well, they’re all the happier. Suffering builds character. I never understood that as well as I do now.

Every day now, I see the value of my life, the infinite possibilities, and the beautiful reality my mind can manifest. My suffering is the base upon which I will build the towering castle of the life I intend to live.

Infinite love to you all.

You may want to know what I’ve learned about the Awesome Power of Psychedelics, or how Single-Pointed Meditation can help your Spiritual Practice.

 

A trip to remember

The day before yesterday a friend of mine came over to visit. He‘s been living in Denmark the last year or so, and I don‘t meet him all that often so it was cool to see him again.

We had planned to take a massive psychedelic trip together and so I grabbed my jar of dried liberty caps (Psilocybe Semilanceata) that I meticulously picked last fall and we brewed a tea with about 80 caps.

We discussed the parameters of the trip, and laid down some ground rules. Last time I tripped with this particular friend a schoolmate of his called him mid-trip and wanted to discuss some project they were working on and was so obtuse to the fact that we had taken psychedelics that he stayed on the phone for half an hour.

Ridiculous.

I decided then to never let anything like that happen again, since atmosphere and setting are easily the most important factor when doing shrooms.

I‘ve taken mushrooms maybe six times by now, and four of those trips I took on my own, mostly in meditative silent darkness á la Terence McKenna. My friend was interested in trying this approach as he had mostly done mushrooms in a more casual social setting. So, after drinking this wondrous tea of visions we made for my bedroom, where I pulled the drapes, turned off the lights and closed the windows. I sat down on the floor by my meditation altar and he sat on the bed. We kind of talked on and off about what we were experiencing, and sat in silence in between.

Soon the familiar feeling of weightless tingling set in, and before long colorful geometric shapes and ribbons started dancing around me. I‘ve experienced large doses of Psilocybin a few times before so I knew what to expect, but the sheer beauty of it never fails to amaze me.

Whenever I‘m tripping with someone else I feel like we‘re a single entity, as if we‘re sharing thoughts and emotions, but that‘s definitely not the case. My friend and I kept each other informed as to our insights and thought patterns, and man they were completely different. However, the more we talked, the more we started to see what the other meant. We started to tune into each other. Literally, as in the visions surrounding me would correlate to the ideas he was expressing to me and vice versa.

As we got close to the peak of the trip we moved under the covers in bed and I just lay there in amazed wonder while epiphany upon epiphany drifted through my consciousness. After a while I sat up in a cross legged position again and started following the sensations in my body and my breath. I probably sat there for an hour (although time is notoriously relative), just contemplating and coming to terms with my existence, as a human incarnate on the earthly plane, and I felt an acceptance, a peace, that I‘ve never before experienced, even on my previous psychedelic trips. I became absolutely confident in my right to exist and flourish, and that whatever happened to me, everything would be all right. It was the most powerful psychedelic experience I‘ve ever had, and now two days later I‘ve had a chance to digest it.

I feel a certain liberation. I don‘t mean I‘m a buddha or a holy man or anything. Just that some barrier, some blockage that‘s been telling me to be something other than I am, has suddenly dissolved and given me a chance to experience life as a fully self-accepting, honest and happy human being. If only for a little while.

It‘s motivated me to take my circumstances and happiness fully into my own hands, to take responsibility for everything in my life, good and bad. I see now that it‘s the only way forward.