Psychedelic Awakening

These medicines will allow you to come and visit Christ, but you can only stay two hours. Then you have to leave again. This is not the true Samadhi. It’s better to become Christ than to visit him – but even the visit of a saint for a moment is useful. But love is the most powerful medicine.

Neem Karoli Baba

I will always have the highest respect for psychedelics. I am ecstatic by the current resurgence in research and the steady change in public perception. This post is my own small way to help break the taboo. The honest truth is that I would have never met Ram Dass or found the spiritual path if it was not for these early adventures, nor would I currently be working on my MSW or be doing any of the work I am doing. This experience, although one of the more memorable, was one of many, and it offered me a taste of faith, one that only really took root after meeting Ram Dass and coming in contact with my Guru, Neem Karoli Baba. Regardless, this was the first blossoming of the seed, the first rustling leaves of an awakening, the kindling on the fire of love…

We had taken two gel tabs of L.S.D., and it was coming on strong. Dan and I walked to a nearby city park in Eugene, OR, the manicured lawn displaying geometric fractals bordered by pulsing coniferous trees. The energy in my body was building fast, and it became difficult to move. I sat down in the lotus posture, a habit I had developed from the last year of active experimentation. I closed my eyes and began breathing. This began to calm the energy in my body, but it didn’t do anything for my deep unanswered question. Is God real?

At 22 years old, I had recently graduated from college, but I had also just begun another form of education. For the last year, I had been regularly taking psychedelic drugs. In between weekend sessions, I voraciously read sacred scriptures from the world’s religious traditions and experimented with various spiritual practices. Some of the things that happened in that year you wouldn’t believe if I told you. Sometimes I wonder if I really even believe it. What was once not even questioned as possible soon became commonplace. Telepathy, psychokinesis, the malleability of time and communication with seemingly extraterrestrial forms of intelligence started to become my reality. But then the trip would end, and this would be just a memory to form a belief from. Given that this was only really my experience when tripping, it was easy to have doubts.

My intuitive understanding of God and the interconnectedness of all things that I gained from psychedelics was not enough to withstand my doubting mind. Although at first I was elated at the possibilities, over time I had become frustrated that I still didn’t know. This time around, I needed something more.

I asked God to show me Its Divine Presence. I sat there, waiting for some Divine intervention and wondering if I should try harder. A ripple of frustration pierced through my awareness-field. What am I supposed to do? And, who am I talking to, anyway? What do I even expect to happen? I realized that there was nothing I could do to figure out the existence of God. It seemed ridiculous that I could ever know anything outside of myself. So, I changed my question- Who am I?

With eyes closed, I focused my attention on the breath. It glowed as a cosmic river of light, ebbing and flowing with my inhale and exhale. It was both radiant and soothing, but it didn’t answer my unsolved question. Who am I? That’s when the first realization came. I am not this breath. 

So I stopped breathing. This created a stillness and a sense of momentary peace, but it only lasted for so long until the body’s survival reflexes kicked in. I felt a point of intensity, a feeling of pain, right at the base of the throat. It became increasingly difficult to prevent the body from breathing, and periodically the throat would tremble as my body tried to gasp for air. With my resolve fortified and aided by the help of the medicine, I was easily able to override this survival programming. The feeling intensified as my entire attention coalesced around this knife-sharp point of pain, engulfing my entire universe. Each time I felt myself reach the breaking point, I strengthened my resolved and let go of my defenses. My will intensified alongside the growing compulsion to breathe, but something didn’t feel quite right. I saw that this striving wasn’t going to answer my question. Who am I? That’s when the next realization came. I am not this pain. 

It is hard to say exactly what happened next. My awareness detached and lifted from the pain, which was the only experience in my consciousness at the time. Unlike when I held my breath, this was not an exercise in will. It was a letting go. Now there was no body and no physical universe. The only thing left was my own mind, fear and doubt.

With no breath or physical sensation to rope it in, my mind ran wild. Did I just leave my body? And when I left, hadn’t I stopped breathing? How is my body going to know to start breathing again? How do I get back? What if I die? I had a vision of my parents reading the front page of the newspaper. “Young man dies while trying to find God on L.S.D.” I heard snippets of conversation from my friends. “He just went over the deep end.” “He was so confused.” “Poor guy.”

As my mind raced, desperately searching for something solid to cling to, I had an epiphany. I needed to know the Truth. If I died discovering that I truly am Eternal Consciousness, then it would be worth it. If I died and then ceased to exist, it wouldn’t matter anyway. My worries wouldn’t exist either. I saw that these tethers to the physical world were just attachments that could be released. My mind softened. I am not these thoughts either.

My mind stopped. No thought. No mind. No body. No sense of self. No physical universe. No me. What was left was Existence itself- Self-Luminous, Pure, Eternal Consciousness. The emptiness of Being was the fullness of God. It was in this letting go that this was known, not as another fact or experience, but as a revelation of Truth. This lasted for the briefest of moments, but it was all I needed.

I love you

Those were the first words to re-emerge into the mind, and they felt like the truest words I had ever thought. A spontaneous declaration of love, erupting from the sheer magnanimity of the moment. I had never loved anything more. And, from this Loving Awareness came a moment of sheer Grace- the first breath.

It came as a burst of energy, seemingly out of nowhere, emerging from Existence itself, but it wasn’t my breath. It was God’s breath, or The Breath. This breath, the energy of creation, transformed into bellowing lungs, and a beating heart emerged like a ship from the fog. The energy spread outwards, illuminating the rest of the body. It was a front-row seat to the Big Bang, watching the universe of form arise from formlessness. The body was alive, fed by the heart and lungs, pulsating through the veins, full of life and shimmering light. But none of it was mine. It was so clear that I had no control over any of it. I was just watching as Life happened in all its dynamic radiance.

And I understood in that moment that, if there was going to be a word for this, the best word would be Love. I also understood, long before I ever heard the word Bhakti or came in contact with the devotional path, that this Love is a kind of relationship. It is a way to relate to this Cosmic Truth. Everything is Love, including the false sense of self. As long as I thought I was separate, I love you were the best words I could fathom saying, and loving was the best use of my time.

As I opened my eyes, with the cloud-textured sky edged by the park’s jagged tops of coniferous trees, it was so clear that none of it was mine. It was all just God happening to God. I could feel myself begin to identify with my thoughts again, and I wanted some way to remember this Inner Truth. The words, I am nothing. There is only God, began playing on repeat in my mind, serving as a constant reminder of this Non-Dual Truth. When the body began walking, it was not my body, and when my friend asked me a question, it was not me answering. And all of it, the trees, clouds, trees, and my own self… they were all Divine. I am nothing. There is only God. 

It was clear that the L.S.D. was still in full effect. Electric rainbows traversed the vision, and I could feel the body’s psychedelic high. I noticed the difficulty and lack of motivation to use language, but none of it seemed very important. Whether I was tripping or not was irrelevant. It was all God- every sensation of the body and every thought- it was all a part of the same sea of experience. It didn’t matter what the contents were. It was Grace no matter what. I am nothing. There is only God. 

I love you.

This awareness did not last even the entire duration of the trip. It was all so new to me, and I mistook some of the ramifications. Once I had formed a belief system around it, I made that my truth and clung to it even when there was nothing to hold onto. As I walked with my friend through the streets of Eugene, I watched as my body walked towards a car parked on the side of the neighborhood street. I sat from my place of detached awareness, watching as the body took one quick step after the other, until it plowed right into the back of the parked car with its full force and weight. I almost fell over as Dan laughed at me. I stood there confused, trying to figure out why God didn’t maneuver the body out of the car’s way and what exactly I was supposed to do next.

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About Sitaram Dass

kirtan, devotion, activism, and writings at sitaramdass.com View all posts by Sitaram Dass

2 responses to “Psychedelic Awakening

  • Inessa Anderson

    So amazing to read this. It does seem there’s an increased positive awareness coming around. Witness Michale Pollan’s new book, How To Change Your Mind!

  • Sitaram Dass

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. I am excited about Michael Pollan’s new book. I especially enjoy how he is not watering down the psychedelic experience and is skeptical of the ways that it is being used to support capitalism.

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