Two weeks ago, starting on Monday night, I entered a fast that lasted through Thursday. In March, I made a commitment to fast the first three days of every month for the year. Each time it comes up, dread swirls with lack and craving and desire. This feeling is tempered through the fast and yet, that moment in the beginning when the three days stretch forth from me ages away creates this deep dislike in my bones that curls my toes. I embrace the suck and do it anyway. In some ways it is a masochistic part of myself that is massaged. Type 2 Fun, like hiking a steep mountain – painful and yet full of pleasure.
This time, slinging my backpack over my shoulder, I trotted away from civilization and into the magical woods behind the house. My phone loses its network back here, which was perfect since I was also on a media fast for these three days as well. This was a Vision Quest. Walking down the hill away from the house, I contemplated setting up under the sprawling shade of a pecan tree in the wildflower fields to the west. However, the area is more exposed and I imagined myself becoming quite parched in the white-hot heat and becoming dried up as a crusty leaf, blowing in the wind, so I kept moving.
Turning east, I walked and stopped not too far from the wildflowers where I noticed how the glade in the woods, shaded by trees above, had a soft and cool quality; the sunlight filtered through the filigree of their leaves, casting a delicate glow. Flying bugs and other pieces of life danced and floated in the sea of the soft summer hue of the languid air. It suited me just perfectly and I pitched my tent in the cool earth here.
Out of my pack came a tent, poles, stakes, sleeping bag … and although I was also on a media fast, I brought my phone for the clock and the voice recorder. By the time I set up the tent, the hot sun was passing its zenith and I laid down in the tent, and never got back up that day. Stripped naked, I lay there on my back atop the hard ground staring at the mysterious sky, of which parts were shrouded by trees. I watched the clouds pass behind the green foliage like a moving screen. Staring up at this pretty picture, there was nothing to do but to just be.
And for me, that meant a lot of sleeping. I entered the dream world almost instantly. There was a moment when I woke to the hot buzzing of insects like a dusty rattle while the sun’s rays rippled the air, which was draped as a heavy blanket over me. It was too hot to move and so I lay there staring at the sky, watching the clouds pass by before drifting off again. My stomach was in pain. Sharp pangs. This was unusual; I’ve never experienced stomach pains while fasting in the past.
A Visit from Jim
That first day, I slept from afternoon into night. At one point, I heard the whir of mechanical wheels and the jingle and jangle of machinery as a golf cart approached my site. Jim’s face peered in at me from atop my tent, staring in at me and my simple hovel through the mesh screen. He asked me if I needed anything.
“My sleeping pad,” I said, “Oh, and my headlamp!”
Our interaction was stiff. We had been fighting on and off for a few days about nothing and as I took my leave from civilization earlier that day, it wasn’t a merry send off. And so I appreciated him still checking in on me.
Later that night, as I tossed and turned in the sticky heat, awaking intermittently throughout the night to adjust myself, my skin had settled and stuck to the sticky plastic of the sleeping pad and I had to peel myself off like sticker. The chorus of neighborhood peepers was a deafening and perfect orchestral performance, front row seats to the Philharmonic at full blast.
During the day, the sounds twinkling in the forest air were chirping birds. At night, the sounds of the forest come alive with a whole new slew of characters. Amongst the sounds, I heard what I imagined to be a thousand grasshoppers rubbing their legs together, like playing a thousand mini violins; an image conjured from childhood when I wondered about these same nighttime sounds. I heard the calls morph throughout the night. Sometimes I would wake to a crunch or rustling of the forest’s eaves and listened carefully for any sounds – breathing or a snort or a call. One night, I heard what sounded like a cross between a sneeze and snort, a forceful exhale out a narrow passageway. And again a few more times. My imagination went wild wondering which animal matched its noise. When I heard a stick break near me, I wondered about bears.
Slowly and diligently, I slept through the night as the cacophony of nighttime noises fell to a dim din in my consciousness.
Day 2: Pinky’s Missing
The next morning, I awoke in the cool air at daybreak. I got up to do the flow exercise next to my tent but as I stood there, I found myself swaying and weak and went back to bed. Curled up like a roly-poly on the forest floor, I slept steadfastly through the morning. I slept without the pad so I could feel the cooling, grounding energy of the packed and polar earth against my flushed skin.
Sometime in the afternoon, the familiar rumbling of the wonders of mechanics traveled through the ground to my ear and shortly after, Jim followed close behind, rolling through on the golf cart. He asked if I had the black chick with me. I shook my head no. “She’s disappeared from the garden,” He responded so I quickly and quietly put on my clothes and headed up the hill.
Caring for young chicks in this Texas landscape was proving quite challenging without a guard dog or the like. They are very vulnerable creatures and require lots of vigilance on the prairie where snakes, raccoons, and other predators roam with hungry, yawning mouths. The news that the little black Orpington chick we named Pinky was missing bit into me and I lashed out at Jim as he followed me in the golf cart. I was angry at myself for being a “bad chick mama”. This wasn’t the first time.
Emotional Black Hole
Four nights ago, we were discussing current events, the impending race riots from George Floyd’s death and shaken up, I was lost in my own vortex of melancholy, everything else lay outside the sphere of existence, including putting the chicks to bed, which made them easy pickings for nighttime predators.
The next morning, four more of our flock, Peggy, Peki-Peki, and the two roosters, Papa and Papi, were missing, their coop door still open. I couldn’t be with the burden and responsibility. The way I saw it, the lives of my favorite chicks, this perfect, ragtag flock were gone because of my negligence.
For two days, I grimaced and tried to be with my accountability. I couldn’t. So on the third day, I snapped at Jim and said, “Why didn’t you help me with the chicks?” I blamed him because I couldn’t bear my full accountability.
He was patient with me, but I was angry. Angry at myself, remorseful that these cute and funny chickens were gone, furious at the lurking predator eating my babies, angry with how unforgiving nature can be, and I was sucked in to the emotion, a self fulfilling torpedo. From there, it was a game of hot potato, passing off the bad energy back and forth – I just couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be nice. And I was still snarling this afternoon when I learned of the latest avian death.
I lashed out at Jim about a freshly dug up grievance as he slowly drove next to me wanting to connect and wondering what’s wrong. I pushed him away with my words and my physical distance. When I am hurt, all I can think about is creating distance between myself and the world. Get as far away as possible and stay away! It is a Tazmanian whirlwind around me, a vortex of convoluted energy you don’t want to be near. I’ll make sure of it.
Stirring it Up
Bursting into the garden, I scanned the garden beds and spied the two young yellow Orpington’s sitting demure in the corner under the shade of sunflowers. No black chick, though. I searched the entire garden, my ears tuned for her chirp – Perhaps she’d show up inside a cinder block? Poor thing! She’s so tiny, she probably fell inside and got stuck! I checked each cinder block, under the rosemary bush, envisioning her in my mind to manifest her into this dimension. I would spy her somewhere and triumphantly deliver the news to Jim. But in the end, her cute little face never manifested. I allowed myself a little cry, said goodbye, and scooped up the other chicks into their big, red bucket and carried them inside.
Our new friend, Ollie, and his friend, Em, were coming over today and I had to get ready. They were bringing juice for my fast, I was in a weak and bleak state and happy to get out of myself for a bit. Ollie had a big watermelon with him and a 6-pack carrier full of sodas and two juices from JuiceLand. Their arrival was welcome.
I saw Em first. Leggy and tall, she was wearing a tiny black tank top and a tiny black skort. Then, Ollie, impeccably dressed as always with a new bolo tie. We exchanged heart hugs. We sat around the kitchen table for a few hours. A story about the ho’oponopono prayer was shared. The prayer goes like this: I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you. Dimensions were explored. In the afternoon, we all hopped into the golf cart and went on a rambling ride around the property.
When our guests left, I felt great; well enough to do my daily flow exercise. Afterwards, I was petting Julius on the back porch, the two of us murmuring sweet appreciation to each other when Jim stepped out and pulled up a seat. We sat in silence. I sat in the expectation of something being said, and when it wasn’t, huffed off to my tent in the woods in a flurry of resentment.
Melting in the Sun
And there I lay for the remainder of the afternoon. Hot and sticky, naked under the sun, watching the clouds silently pass by like witnesses. Day two of a three day fast is the most difficult. It’s the hump where I fantasize about breaking my fast. It’s early enough that I don’t feel too invested and enough into it to feel significant.
The boredom was all pervasive. I fidgeted for something to do, to occupy my time and to flex my mind, but that release was nowhere to be found. Even when I knew it was nowhere, I still sought it out. My mind crescendoed and descended with the thought of activity. With nothing to do and nowhere to go, I could just rest and watch as my mind fought against this, biting at the chomps for something to do, to gnaw on.
It reminded me how constant is the mind’s need for exercise or fuel. I had first witnessed this hunger during my Vipassana course last summer. The hunger for something. Anything. It is like feeding a sourdough starter. It needs to keep going, it needs to be fed. I reminded myself that I will have plenty to do when I am out of this media fast and to rest for now. So instead I lay there, staring at the clouds blissfully passing by like cheerful passengers of the sky.
And all that time I lay there, I was cleansing my mind, capping the flow of information into me so my body and brain could clear and reset itself. The reset wasn’t noticed in the moment. It only became real two days later when I returned to the farmhouse, or “civilization”, and could feel the different energy present. The computer in the corner of the room swallowed me up in a bottomless pupil, its webcam staring back at me, an omnipresent eye and suddenly, there was so much to be distracted with, so much to take in.
In my glade, I was becoming a part of the flora and fauna, like some strange mushroom made of spongy skin sprung up overnight from the magical combination of heat, wetness, nutrients, and the cool and breezy shade. And here, I stayed and grew as part of the living biome, surrounded by the chatter of the animals. I imagined myself losing my humanness and becoming feral, deconditioning and untying the social knots that constitute who I am in the eyes of the world and myself.
As the day passed into the dark, dark night, I crooned into the voice recorder on my phone, sharing my hopes and desires, dreams and possibilities, insights and reflections. I spoke to people, living and dead, and called out to God, the divine, in praise and gratitude. I sang an old hymn song from childhood and heard my clear voice ringing out into the unfolding darkness.
Then, I slept more soundly than the night before. The sounds of the nocturnal orchestra were more lavish than ever. The first night I had been overwhelmed by the sounds but this night, I was seasoned. The peepers were out in full force and provided a backdrop to the calls of the wild that volleyed back and forth from every which way in the night. Back here, by the creek, the whole city of animals came alive. It was far from bedtime for these creatures. It was their time to shine. And the call of this wildlife glittered all night long, one collective howl at the moon, waxing in the sky.
It was 2 days from its fullest illumination. Everything is a bit stir crazy around these times. When I worked in the emergency department several years ago, I quickly learned that full moon nights were guaranteed mayhem. From where I lay in the tent, I was partially bathed by the moonlight. It streamed in through the leaves in the trees, the moon’s fingers dipping to the earth, illumined like a halo.
The next morning I awoke around dawn when the glade was cast in shades of blue and grey. I peered around me. It felt like I was in the cool underbelly of a ship, a damp and musty smell permeating the air, the dark horizon and the lazy way the air hung between everything, but most of all the stillness. There was a silent hush as the forest gleamed for me. It didn’t chirp or buzz or flutter, it simply gleamed. Day time is for the birds. Night time is for insects and beasts. Daybreak is for me.
The third day on a fast is the home stretch. My mind was running wild with cravings for food. Anticipating the finish line, I was in the throes of it. Filled with thoughts about which food to consume come break fast time. Juice would be good. That’s right. I’ll juice some vegetables and fruit. Apples … Mmm. Or maybe miso soup? I’d love to have a chai latte with coconut milk!
Where the day before I felt weak, this morning I felt strong. I got up and out of my tent to do my morning flow routine. But as I stood up, I felt dizzy and became lightheaded. It was not the right time so I folded my yoga mat back up and decided to go for a walk instead. I slipped on some shoes and left for a walk through the labyrinth of walking trails in the woods.
A Walk in the Woods
Just a few days earlier, Jim had taken the big Kubota mower out on these trails so they were freshly buzzed and it looked like some new trails had been carved out as well. I took off down the path in just a pair of shoes. It felt good to be walking nude in the forest on a fast. I was stripping down to my essence in every way, a distillation in progress.
For much of my twenties, I had been in anguish over my purpose, a bonafide quarter life crisis – Purpose, what is my purpose? What am I here to accomplish? I need to know! These days, the existential pining is no longer present. It has transformed into an understanding that I don’t find purpose, I create it. I gave myself peace when I allowed myself to not have all the answers to the questions.
These days, my focus has shifted from the self-centric view of the previous decade into something that encompasses more than just me. And this is what I have come out into the woods for: to get clear on love and acceptance. My parents aren’t talking to me, my siblings don’t return my phone calls, my best friend isn’t talking to me, and I can’t stop fighting with my partner. In the past, I thought if I got the accolades and the accomplishments, my relationships would improve. This proved to be a false theory. Now I am finding that the crux is in perspective and I am working out the root of my perspective.
Slowly and mindfully, I meandered along the trails, stopping to examine interesting insects and plants, admire spider webs, and other sights and sounds. Two deer are startled by me and bounded away as I watched their dashing exit and appreciated the quiet space I shared with all these wild and living things. At that moment, I felt more a part of their world than the other where the call of the internet sweetly beckons for our succulent minds, emails vie for our attention, television renders our minds to jello, and the whole array of beeping and blinking lights cast their spell in bytes and perfectly hypnotic tunes.
Hearing a snort, I looked up to see another deer in the undergrowth, staring back at me. I freeze and we both stare at each other. It comes to my mind then that perhaps this deer isn’t sure what to make of me. Without my shirt and pants and shoes – maybe she believes me to be some sort of strange, wild animal. I certainly have morphed over the past few days, growing a little wildness and taking on some organic matter.
This day was a special day. This was the day I would take my mushroom trip into the unknown. Every summer since 2018, I’ve gone on a Vision Quest. It presents me an opportunity to take whatever the big theme is of the year and give some space and freedom for something to come forth out of the ether. That first year I did it, I was out of work and torn between worlds when I went on a solo trip to the White Mountains in New Hampshire to climb and camp on Mt. Isolation with a tab of acid and a cucumber. The next year, I took another solo trip to the Whites but camped on Mt. Washington close to the summit, at the edge of the Great Gulf Wilderness. This year, I am fasting in the woods and taking the “heroic dose” of 5 g of mushrooms as recommended by cosmic cowboy, Terence Mckenna, for a spiritual experience.
The plan was to take the mushrooms at 5:00 PM so I could be present to the transition from day to evening to night. I wasn’t sure how long a heroic dose would be, but planned for approximately 6 hours. Once my timeline was set, I headed to the house around the afternoon to gather everything I needed.
Into my purse, I tucked my box of special objects that I’ve collected over the years, Jim’s mini statue of Ganesha, the remover of obstacles from the Hindu tradition, several pieces of incense, a bundle of sage, a sleep mask, and ear plugs. From the freezer, I took the home grown mushrooms and measured them out on the scale. “5 g” the scale blinked back at me. When I returned with a container, “6 g” the scale now read. Faced with the decision, it took me just a couple of seconds to register my set determination and I placed them all in the baggie.
When I arrived back at the tent, there was a robust but calm excitement in the air. Feeling like a wizard, I set down my purse full of magical trinkets and pulled out the incense. As its fragrance filtered through the tent, the smoke leaving its tendrils of trails through the air, I began to prepare for my journey. There is a special album I downloaded off Spotify ahead of time and played this as I sanctified my space.
It is a 40 minute recording from 1957 of a mushroom ceremony with the Mazatec Indians in Mexico. It was recorded by R. Gordon Wasson, an executive at JP Morgan of all things, who was also an amateur mycologist and highly interested in psychedelics for spiritual purpose. Imagine if bankers these days followed a similar tradition?
The recording is a strong, old lady’s voice singing. There is a comfort I find in hearing the simple song with no accompaniments. Sometimes, she stops and speaks rhythmically. Other times, there is a man’s voice heard in the background. I do not recognize the language but the songs sound to me like protection and guidance. So with the incense burning, the sounds of this old lady’s comfortable singing filling the spaces of my tent, I am pulled into the experience of blessing my space.
From the purse, I pull out my box of special things, these will serve as powerful talismans. I know this intuitively. I’ve never done anything like this before, I’m just doing what feels right.
First, I select a dried coral mushroom and place it carefully at the north facing door. Into the corner clockwise from there, I placed a big, dried seed that was given to me at the summit of Doi Suthep, a holy mountain in Chiang Mai and one of the first places I went with Jim. Next, is a purplish rock that caught my eye one day on a hike. At the south facing door, a vortex rock my friend brought back from Arizona. In the next corner, a beautiful piece of quartz we picked up at Lake Ouachita in Arkansas. Lastly, a pair of jade stones that serendipitously showed up in the coin holder of my car one day several years ago.
Then, I removed everything from the tent except for my sleeping pad and bag. By the time the tent was as sanctified and blessed as any chapel, temple, or holy place, there was only an hour remaining until 5:00 PM. I took the time to sit in meditation, reviewing my intentions for the trip: love and acceptance.
When it was time, I gave thanks for the trip ahead and began consuming the mushrooms. Chewing slowly and purposefully, the mechanics of eating something substantial was a relief. It was a dried up psilocybin mushroom, but it was food and the motion elated and comforted me. It satiated that hunger, even though the taste was as it was. The rest of the mushrooms were eaten one after another in quick and quiet succession. Then, I laid back and waited.
Within a few minutes I noticed the world taking on a shimmering quality, the already glimmering leaves shining and fluttering with the sun and wind began to sparkle harder. Everything around me was starting to appear watery, like a sudden onset of heat waves was microwaving it to jelly. When I felt my body relax totally is when I knew it was time to put on the eye mask and take the ride.
With the mask on, I lied down and waited. Almost immediately, I heard an animal approach. It came to the perimeter, huffing and puffing a noise I hadn’t heard yet in the three days I had been out here during the day and night. I wondered what it could be that it was just now making an appearance.
The energy shifted as I heard it move closer and closer until it felt right atop me now, looking in at me through the open mesh. The rainfly of my tent still hung on a nearby vine from Day One and I was suddenly astutely aware of my vulnerability and nakedness.
I was reminded of a dream I had the day I arrived in the glen and slept through the afternoon. Sometime in the evening, two men came and stood over my tent, peering down at me curled up on my sleeping bag, this strange girl in a strange world. Mumbling amongst themselves, they began shoveling dirt on top of me, burying me alive.
Now, my curiosity turned into fear, wondering who was contemplating me this time and how. I wondered to myself if I had taken too much. Trembling, my ears strained to place where it was in proximity to me, echolocating it to a point beyond the right side of my temple. I imagined what it could be and some otherworldly creature in dark shades of night blue popped into my head. I dared not peep a glance at what it was, but it felt like a beast, not an animal.
I reminded myself of the commitment I had made before taking this journey – Keep the mask on the entire time – so, I lay there quivering like a courageous rabbit instead. The fear gripped me and grew into a deep and panicking dread with each second that ticked by until it was absolute and sheer terror. With the amount of fear that was coursing through my veins, I was sure that every inch of me was flooded with terror molecules. I’ve never felt that level of fear in my life. And yet, I remained there in Savasana pose breathing in deep and rhythmic turns.
Darkness v. Light
I’ve never had a “bad” trip before. It had always been something that invited me into a beautiful, shimmering world cascading in introspective studies of how things are. I’ve partied with psychedelics because it has me feeling light as air. Darkness isn’t normally what populates my entheogenic landscape. This trip was going dark. The beautiful glen I was in suddenly felt hostile and treacherous. The chorus of wildlife had changed from the cheerful chirping to a hissing rattle that seethed into the air, persistent and pervasive in its shrill tonality.
In the throes of darkness, I could feel the energy in the woods had dropped and become flat. I was surrounded by fear; it was in me and around me. I felt everything closing in on me. Helplessly, I watched it take over, washing over me like a slow and crashing, fatal wave. At this moment, I wondered desperately what I could do to change course. What can fight darkness? What came to me as the only option was, “Love!”
So I grabbed a hold of the essence of Love and meditated on it, putting everything I had available towards it. I created the warmth and light of love in my body and psyche, flooding myself with as much as I could muster. At first, it was as if I was at the bottom of a deep well and all around me was darkness; and above me, a dim light shining in the dark, a tiny pinhole of hope. There were moments when it felt as if I were teetering on a tightrope, to one side lay the hungry darkness ready to gobble me up in an inky tidal wave of blackness, and on the other, Love and Light. It took all my energy to continue towards the light but the flickering beam steadily grew as I gained footing in my meditation.
Face to Face with Ego
It was a battle for my life, and I was sweating profusely from my efforts. I found myself automatically breathing deeper and longer to facilitate my focus and was grateful to my daily breathwork practice over the past few months. Finally, after what felt like an hour but could have been minutes, the presence of a being dissipated and the wave of darkness passed, leaving me curled up and shaking like a quivering leaf.
I was in awe at what had just occurred and then, an incoming feeling of languidness. I stretched like a big cat in my tent, yawning tears that soaked into my eye mask, already damp with sweat. I felt sparkling and beautiful, soaked in the glowing light that comes after a storm. I breathed heavy sighs of relief and nodded off to the calm like a baby drunk on milk.
Though the darkness passed, it brought me face to face with my own ego. And in the throes of a psychedelic experience, I saw my face and it wasn’t me. It was this other person, this “pain-body”, who wore a smirk and a manipulative eye and I was horrified to see her. Past events in my life where I had behaved with bitterness, hatred, and resentment – my Hallmark cards when I indulge my ego – surfaced and I saw my face reflected on the faces of those around me, twisted and marred. All around me, suspicion and hostility was jeering back at me.
Then and there, I saw her so clearly and all the ways in which I had acted in her name. I saw the people whom I had hurt and wronged. I saw the delicate dance that we do as humans in love and pain and misunderstanding and celebration and grief, and all the shimmering energies and scents that fly under the radar of the visible eye. I saw how everything collided rhythmically like a kaleidoscope in this beautiful way and how I myself collided with it in a haphazard and dangerous way sometimes. And how that lack of dexterity or presence caused trouble for myself and others.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, “I’m so sorry.” I got on my knees and pleaded for forgiveness. To all the people. To everyone. I wailed to myself for all the times I had hurt intentionally and unintentionally and acted in a way not in accordance with Love. I felt sick and shameful and embarrassed and guilty. I named the people who came into my head: my parents, siblings, Jim, and others, and asked for forgiveness. I asked myself for forgiveness. I vowed to remember this humbling feeling, the remorse and grief over my actions, and I promised to always give back. To contribute something greater and to give more than I receive. I promised myself.
Finally, I said aloud, “There is a dark energy inside me.” I didn’t like to say it and had been avoiding bringing this to light for a while. It feels like an acknowledgement of being crazy and unlovable. And there it lay this entire time, hidden and coiled in my gut. “Get out,” I boldly exclaimed. “Get out!” Again. “Get out!” Again. Louder. “Get OUT!” With force, now. I could still feel its icky energy and wanted this shit done with. Out of me. But as I grew increasingly more forceful, it felt wrong. I was condemning myself for something that was inside me. I was condemning and rejecting some part of me, telling it to “get out” as if it was a trespasser.
This split identity is what had me compartmentalizing my life into charade versions of myself all my life: Work-Annette, School-Annette, Family-Annette, and Girlfriend-Annette. And this year, the work has been in knocking down the walls and integrating the whole of who I am. Suddenly present to the futility of me rejecting myself, I stopped trying to exorcise this dark energy out of me and it shrank back to its place coiled at the bottom of my gut. I felt exhausted when it did so. It occurred to me that this story wasn’t over yet.
The Last Hour
Meanwhile, I was sticky and sweaty and clammy. It felt as if I was wringing myself clean. Twisting and squeezing, getting rid of the excess, removing the blockages. Holding my right hand to my heart and my left hand to my stomach I soothed myself. I felt tears of joy spring to my eyes as I breathed in and out calmly. I told myself over and over and over again, “I love you.” I gave myself the love I’ve been chasing all my life.
I lay there listening to the sounds of the forest as they called out to each other, their voices reverberating and echoing in the forest. I let out a soulful howl to the almost-full moon. From nearby, I heard a new animal respond to me. I wondered if whatever it was was speaking to me and sang my soulful howl again. Again, the animal let out his own call in response. I howled out lyrically, short, soulful, and sweet. I heard the animal respond again. We were crooning to each other then, speaking in different languages but understanding all the same with the language of life and energy. In that moment, I connected to my surroundings as another wild animal out here singing to the moon.
As the trip was winding down, I faced another bout of fear. I can’t recall what prompted it at the moment, but when it happened I again went deep into my breath and focused on it to keep me grounded. I felt the air rush through to my lungs and back out like a channel, a flute.
When it was time, I took the mask off my eyes. The woods around me were lit up and I welcomed the glow of dawn. Sitting up, I glanced around me and noticed fireflies were dancing in the glen, sparkling in and out of existence. I sat there giving gratitude for the trip and for what I learned. I gave gratitude for being alive and for beauty. I glanced around my tent and gave gratitude to my sacred objects for keeping me safe.
A Magic Spell
When I spied my phone laying on the floor, I wanted to know what time it was. At the same time, I didn’t. I vacillated for a second before reasoning with myself that I should know how much time has passed so I can know the effects of 6 g of mushrooms. I checked the time: 9:09 PM. This came as a shock to me. 9:09!? I thought it was morning but only 4 hours had passed!
I regretted removing my mask then and silently reminded myself of my promise to keep it on until the very end. I had also intended to make an audio recording of my trip, but had forgotten to do that. These two are learning lessons for my next journey.
Afterwards, I had difficulty falling asleep. I tossed and turned for hours, which surprised me. It had been assumed that I would easily drift into sleep after a trip. Oh, how wrong I was. I felt my belly ache and my lips were parched. I thought, “If only I had some water,” and grappled with the idea because most of all, I wanted to stay in the beautiful, sacred bubble I had created for as long as possible and was reluctant to break the magical seal enclosed by my tent.
Finally, after another hour of lying awake, I decided to get a drink of water. In the light of the almost-full moon, I walked through the forest up to the house. On my way, I passed Napoleon the Bull sleeping on his mud patch in the paddock. I could see the outline of his enormous body, lit up by the moonlight. He was awake as well. And the two of us shared this moment, bathed in the moonlight of this wide and open expanse, dipped in midnight blue. I felt like a guest in this space, privy to a spell of time and place that belonged to the wild, the antithesis of the world I normally inhabited of the internet and text messages and conference calls and schedules.
Up at the house, everything was dark. Julius was sitting on the steps of the back porch and with my nocturnal eyes acclimated, I spotted him instantly. He purred as I approached and sat next to him, stroking him just the way he likes. After a few minutes, I got up and headed inside. The house was quiet as I tip-toed into the kitchen, grabbed a glass, and poured myself a cup of water.
Re-joining Julius on the porch, the two of us sat there in the night, breathing in the crisp air, as the calls of the wild rang out from all corners of the earth, each offering up their own song, their own verse, their own howl as their form of expression: to be heard, to be appreciated, to communicate, and to give existence to. It reminded me of how often I stop my own howl from being expressed. How often I don’t allow my cry to ring out, soulful and true. That night, I howled to the moon all night long my favorite song of love and truth and beauty.
Healing an Open Wound
In the morning, I awoke cranky. I wasn’t suddenly transformed, which disappointed me, but something yet had shifted. I was met with my ego, my darkness, that part of myself that lurks in the shadows, rarely seen without a disguise. And I had tried to exorcise her, but still she remained. I wondered if I had failed at something.
Was she supposed to still be inside me? Shall I integrate her into my being? Do I welcome her into the fold? Is this a part of me that is forever mine?
What I take away from it is that I acknowledge what is present – being true to reality and seeing things as they are. Knowing myself will help in navigating through life skillfully. Before my trip, I had set the intention for Love and Acceptance. And in true fashion, the universe provided. I found Love as the way through the forest of darkness and when darkness showed me my reflection, I wrestled with Acceptance of who I had been being.
This truth has sprung up in the past when I integrated it as a neurosis, manifested as self-loathing. Returning to it at a new point in my journey gave me an opportunity to integrate it with kind compassion and acceptance for myself, all of myself, and this love is something I have never been able to give to myself before.
The missing piece then was responsibility. When I wasn’t responsible for the way I was being, I also couldn’t be responsible for providing the antidote. Now that I am learning my accountability, suddenly the elixir has arrived in my hand.
In the past, I’ve been aware of and confronted by the ways I’ve hurt people. I’ve given as sincere apologies as was possible for me then, but the gravity was not known to me then. I didn’t realize the poignancy of moments. They were just fleeting to me, barely real, as effervescent as a plume of smoke – here one second, gone the next. And with this careless attitude I’ve rummaged through life, a trail of casualties behind me.
This trip has ripped me wide open, allowing me to see reality and leaving me feeling raw and vulnerable, almost sick. In the sober light of day, it was hard for me to be with this new information. The loving meditation at the end of my trip had been like a salve, applied to an open wound but it didn’t disappear the pain. There was still work to be done.
Over the past year, I have been coming closer and closer to connecting myself to reality. I started at a distance quite disparate from life as it happened and unfolded right before me. Now, I find the gap closing between where I stand and Life. I allow myself to be connected and it means I feel more. I feel more joy and more sadness. I feel more grief and more anger. I feel more exuberance and more belonging. The cost of numbness is too high. And so, here another leg of my hero’s journey comes to a transition. The story of when I came face to face with some devilish figure and was shown the truth of my reality, a plot twist. A truth that was a bitter pill and one that is empowering me in accountability. The story of how I was shown the way.