What does one need for the ideal magic mushroom trip? When I take mushrooms, I always ask myself the same things everyone does: out in the open or indoors? During the day or at night? Alone or with company? Music or silence? A recreational dose, or a heroic dose? Adventure or exploration? Improvisation or preparation?
Among all these options, are some objectively preferable to others? Is there in fact an ideal context in which a trip will go well for anyone, or are the answers to my questions merely subjective?
The easy conclusion would be that the answers vary from person to person – and this is partly true. The answers in fact depend on how you feel, how much experience you have with magic mushrooms (if any), if your trip has some sort of goal and what that goal is.
However, there does exist a perfect place to trip, which I’ll discuss later in this article. And that place has everything necessary to make sure one’s trip will be a safe one, and one that’s beneficial for whoever already ticks all the boxes with regards to having the right psychophysical prerequisites to consume mushrooms.
Having sought long and hard for the answers to my initial questions, today I’ll be sharing the insights that years of practice have brought me. I hope that whoever seeks to use mushrooms to further their self-knowledge – the only viable motive for consuming mushrooms for an extended period of time – can find my reflections useful. I am not against recreational use, but this kind of usage never gets one very far because the shortest games are always the best. Fun requires variety, and so naturally those who choose to take mushrooms for playful reasons quickly move on to other things. The real personal journey, meanwhile, is one which never finishes, as there are always new revelations one can come to. And mushrooms are an eternally great aid in this work, especially if one knows how to integrate.
My reflections are based on practice. In fact, over time, I have tried each option available because it is only right and natural to want to experience everything directly. After all, only through practice can one experience the psychedelic world. While informing oneself is a must – particularly if you are inexperienced – theory is too abstract to be all that useful.
Psychedelic experience is the discriminating factor which allows us some choices rather than others; your level of direct knowledge of mushrooms is what determines them. If you’re a beginner, for instance, it makes sense to prepare well and trip at home, during the day and maybe in the company of a sitter, with suitable music and a limited dose. On the other hand, a veteran psychonaut has more scope for choice and can do largely what they please – that is, while respecting set & setting to avoid any undesirable outcomes.
For some, the ideal trip is a challenging one in which one comes face to face with one’s own identifications. For others, it’s one which unblocks one’s mind from rigid ways of thinking: thought patterns, for example, which prolong depression. Others still feel a need to perceive beauty and so seek out an ecstatic or mystical experience. Therefore, one could say that every trip is perfect in its own way as long as there are no negative consequences once it is over.
It is precisely because of the subjective differences in magic mushroom use that I have asked myself whether there is a perfect method for everyone regardless. Now more than ever, what one needs in order to work with the mushrooms in the best way is clear to me – whether you’re a well-travelled psychonaut or a newcomer. Keeping in mind, the only exceptions are contraindications with regards to pre-existing mental and physical conditions which rule out the use of psychedelics for certain individuals.
Let’s return now to the questions listed at the start and look at what one might want to do (or perhaps have to do) when planning a magic mushroom trip.
Outdoors or indoors?
Outdoors or indoors? Naturally, there are pros and cons to both of these options. When I think about an indoor trip, I remember the Celts, who maintained that the Divine cannot be celebrated in places built by man – because of this belief, they would always practice their rites in Nature, in local forests which were known to be sacred. I both understand and appreciate this position. However, there are a great deal of man-made places which are built according to divine laws, which not only respect the sanctity of the location, but actually exalt and amplify it. Many churches, temples and all kinds of megalithic sites are a testament to their inspired origin. One can clearly feel the particular energy in these locations, but also find scientific evidence for it. I’m referring here to countless cathedrals, but also to small chapels and places widely considered to be sacred or therapeutic. One can even apply this idea to long walks taken along the telluric lines (or “ley lines”).
Interesting insights on this theme can be found in the book The Divine Blueprint by Freddy Silva, which extensively explores the subject in a fascinating way. I highly recommend it. The expanded state of consciousness mushrooms can provide is perfect for gaining direct experience with the natural and telluric energies these places hold. Undergoing a psychedelic voyage in an energetically significant place is advised as you might end up seeing and experiencing things which are otherwise difficult to perceive. Pay attention not to take too much though: some locations’ energetic intensity could greatly amplify the effects!
Staying inside has the advantage of being more comfortable. One has easy access to a bathroom, water, food, and a feeling of being protected. Meanwhile, being outside puts one in contact with the spirit of nature. The beautiful perceptions one can experience about the life flowing all around us can be truly indescribable. It’s a wonderful thing that everyone should try. How can one reconcile these opposing needs for safety and wonder? A house surrounded by greenery can be perfect. That way, you can reap the benefits of both solutions. But what if you live in a condo? How can one reconcile these opposing needs for safety and wonder? A house surrounded by greenery can be perfect. That way, you can reap the benefits of both solutions. But what if you live in a condo? You can actually find a great many solutions to this on house sharing websites, and there are also “holistic” centres which welcome groups seeking to have ceremonial experiences with sacred plants. Research in this area is more than doable if one is discreet about it.
Another solution would of course be outdoor camping. But one must always be cautious of any prohibitions or restrictions on fire lighting in the area. Tripping at night in the presence of a fire is almost mandatory, both for practical reasons and for the simple fact that fire takes on an incredible quality during a mushroom trip.
Finally, being outdoors on a beautiful day is good in that it only requires a few things: yourself; whatever you think will make you more comfortable; food; water, and maybe a little specially selected music.
During the day or at night?
There is no real answer to the question of whether day or night is better, as the two experiences are so vastly different. A good way to experience both is to organise your trip so that it crosses the transition between these times. That way you can experience both.
A daytime trip is more suited to someone with less experience. While sunlight can be helpful and reassuring, the dark of night is more likely to evoke certain fears. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it all depends on whether you’re ready to confront these fears in an altered state of consciousness.
The most extreme condition is night time surrounded by nature: a uniquely challenging immersion in the forces of the natural world! This enterprise requires you to have a fire, without which one invites danger into the mix. And a fire is much more than just a means of helping to scare away animals which are best kept at bay. It’s something one can spend a good portion of the trip simply contemplating, receiving the benefits of its primal inspiration. Mushrooms greatly support this aspect of the man-fire relationship, and therefore it is something that deserves to be experienced directly.
Personally, my ideal trip takes place at night, in a space that is protected somehow, surrounded by nature and, of course, in the presence of a fire.
Alone or in company?
I prefer to trip alone. However, being with other people opens up a much greater array of benefits. The issue is I’m a little lazy: organising a ceremony with other people takes time and effort, not to mention the vigilance I feel I have to maintain during the ceremony. Indeed, I’m usually the most experienced person there, and that places a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. Or at least that’s how I see it. This applies especially to group experiences not conducted by a shaman, which accounts for almost all magic mushroom trips.
When you’re alone, you’re free to concentrate on yourself. You’re in charge of whether there is music playing or not, and you can generally do what you want without external distractions. This all makes introspective work much easier.
A group experience is of course more structured. (You’ll find a long chapter dedicated to mushroom ceremonies in my book The Magic Mushroom User’s Guide, and also an article HERE on the same subject). Paradoxically, the limits dictated by ceremonial rules tend to create even more opportunities for learning something useful from the experience – much more, in fact, than the rules of a solo trip tend to do. Yes, I mean it! It’s a paradox but an empirically understandable one. Think about it like this: isn’t a football match more fun if there are rules the teams must follow? Give it some thought and you’ll see that rules are actually fundamentally important. If you happen to disagree with me on this, feel free to tell me why in the comments.
The most important difference though, and the one which brings with it the most benefits, is precisely the presence of other participants. During the trip, other people are transformed into pure mirrors, who can reflect the aspects of yourself you can’t usually see. How do you know this is true? Here’s a simple rule to keep in mind (which applies to both psychedelic experience and everyday life): if it bothers you, it’s about you! What someone’s doing, or the way in which they’re doing it can be unbearable for you, but a whole lot of fun to someone else. Considering that the other person can remain indifferent while their behavior is so disturbing to you… isn’t the problem coming from you? What is it exactly that’s prompting you to feel so troubled? In that moment you just have to stay in contact with what you feel. The fungus can help you understand that, just maybe, your anxiety comes from something as mundane as an angry comment a teacher made to you when you were little! When you discover this fact, and integrate it, you’ll find your discomfort vanishes as if by magic, confirming that the other person is such only according to your judgement.
Trip companions become the best allies for auto-observation. Indeed, what you feel towards them is ultimately a snapshot of yourself, and the mushrooms put you in a position to observe this with maximum ease. Obviously this doesn’t apply solely to anxieties, but also to the things you admire in others – what you admire is always and only what you admire in yourself! It’s well understood that mushrooms prompt you to work more on yourself every time you take them, but the way in which this happens changes according to whether you’re alone or with other people.
Any moment of the group experience can put you to the test – if one member of the group starts to feel unwell, for example, and fears they are having a “bad trip”, how do you react? This is a moment of truth. Faking it is not an option. How you react or respond is a good litmus test for what point you’re at yourself: where your strengths are and where you might still have work to do.
Group work changes completely if there is a good facilitator or shaman to conduct the ceremony. Their presence helps to alleviate, or entirely eliminate, the sense of collective responsibility everyone feels towards each other. All in all, this is really the best solution, allowing the participants to benefit from introspective work and the mirrors they hold up to one another without having to worry about each other’s safety.
I like situations that allow us to take on such a responsibility, and that includes “self-managed” ceremonies without a leader. But sometimes it is wonderful to just abandon oneself to the safety of a ceremonial space where everyone is taken care of, where a shaman or a facilitator watches over the journey everyone is undergoing.
Music or Silence?
Now, music or silence? But also: recorded music or live music? If you have good musicians on hand, live music can be best, but many great artists have already recorded their best performances for us, so it’s hard to be disappointed by a selected playlist of those. In contrast, live music is something I happen to heartily despise. I’ve ended up literally walking away from the music to get respite from someone’s indecent strumming!
With regards to the outdoors, it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as silence out in the wilderness. The natural sounds and noises of nature are a unique and fascinating soundtrack in themselves. This is why you might end up feeling like music is out of place outdoors and opt for just sitting with the noises that are already there. The wind rustles through the leaves, the birds chirp and whistle, the insects hum… in the context of this audio experience a trip takes on a new meaning. Often you’ll find yourself feeling the relationship between what happens within one’s mind and what manifests outside of it. Understanding your inside and your outside are one and the same is one of the most beautiful aspects of the magic that mushrooms can offer!
I once happened to start the music outdoors, then had to turn it off almost immediately. It was completely extraneous to what we were experiencing, and therefore annoying. Just stay with what you feel though and decide what you want as you go. Remember, there are no hard and fast rules.
(To an extent…)
The one fixed rule here is that the music must be specially selected. Sticking on something random is always a risk. There’s nothing worse than the wrong music for setting one off on a bad trip! And the inverse is also true: particularly good music can help you avoid bad experiences such as thought loops – which at high doses can be particularly challenging!
The ideal mushroom trip provides both music and silence. It is up to the discretion of the person responsible for the playlist to gauge the right thing to do from one moment to the next. Just silence makes sense within nature, but always having music can become excessive. If whoever is in charge of the music stays in contact with what they feel, they’ll understand without a doubt when to press play or pause. Understanding the quality of the moment, and looking around at the participants, they’ll have an easy enough time discerning what course of action is best. As always, the state of consciousness the mushrooms induce will help one come to the best decision.
Recreational dose or heroic dose?
I say “recreational” here to describe what is essentially a low dose – i.e. mostly when one is consuming amounts equal to or lower than 2.5g of dry mushrooms. Doses such as these allow us to maintain a degree of contact with our shared reality. This is not to say that they are necessarily fun, as fun is never guaranteed.
A similar point can be made with regards to the heroic dose, i.e. the amount prescribed by Terence McKenna: 5 dry grams on an empty stomach, alone, in silent darkness. The exact dose is not important though if you ask me, as 5 dry grams is simply unachievable for some, while others will find that amount relatively easy to handle.
McKenna talks of a ‘committed dose’: a quantity which inspires respect and even apprehension. For me, this dose exists in the realms above 10g, while for a friend of mine it sits at around 2.5g. You will discover yours wherever you find your comfort zone being challenged.
That being said, what is the ideal dose? The most orthodox will tell you it depends on the set & setting – and they would be correct – but if everything is just right, what ideal dose do we want to choose? For me, the answer will always be: a challenging one! I love that feeling of the fungus unravelling the normal workings of the mind in that first hour, finding oneself projected into a world swarming with almost indescribable images and sensations. These sensory experiences immediately get to work resetting the Default Mode Network (the patterns your brain maintains in an ordinary mental state and uses day in and day out for better or for worse).
If you’ve tried doses over 3.5g, you’ll know the exact feeling that tells you whether or not you’ve “broken through” – i.e. if you’ve crossed the threshold or if you’re still connected somewhat to ordinary consciousness. Low doses, of course, will not take you “elsewhere”. Only if you have the courage to challenge yourself can you wield the mushrooms’ powers to enter a new reality! If the contest (setting) is just right, why not take advantage of the opportunity to dive head first into the ocean of your interior world?
My recommendation to anyone trying mushrooms for the first time is to always keep the dose to 1.5 (dry) grams or lower. But if the set & setting happens to be ideal and, even more importantly, if the experience is being led by a true expert whom you trust, you can push the maximum a little and go up to 2 or even 2.5 grams.
A note: if you happen to be particularly sensitive to psilocybin, it’s likely that this dose will induce an intense experience. However, if you maintain trust in the process, you could be in with the chance of something epic: contact with a reality you otherwise could never have imagined. You can only find out what a psychedelic experience really is by trying it. If you choose to read and study instead, you’ll have a faint idea but nothing more. That being said, making sure you’re well informed beforehand is always recommended.
Adventure or exploration?
This question is not too different to that of “improvisation or preparation”. Adventure is, after all, improvised by nature. If you prepared for it, it would be more akin to exploration. I have no qualms in saying that while one must prepare for a challenging dose, you can allow yourself some margin for improvisation if you keep it under 2.5g.
Adventure is an evocative term. Who isn’t tantalised by the prospect of it? Nevertheless, if I want to consume 5 dry grams can’t I be sure that I’ll be landing myself in a rather unpredictable situation? Preparing for the experience essentially means organising for there to be safety (and comfort), which is necessary if you want to voyage without worrying about problems such as inquisitive policemen! Or the problem of being out somewhere in the city and suddenly being unable to stand. The issues you can encounter when your senses are altered to profound levels are too many to count. Under certain circumstances, for example, I will completely avoid crossing busy roads. Just as one needs to be careful going to the bathroom in public, just in case one ends up in the newspaper the next day for having mistaken a water fountain for a toilet!
I take a couple of dry grams and I decide to take a long walk: adventure! No preparation. The only resource at my disposal is the experience I’ve accumulated over the years across numerous trips. Under these conditions, I can certainly do it. It can be beautiful, in fact. One splendid day during the summer, I packed my bag with a bottle of water, some fruit (both fresh and dry), a towel to stretch myself out on, and a phone with earphones to listen to music if I felt so inclined… a little planning is always necessary, after all. One of the things the worst “bad trips” recorded have in common is complete unpreparedness for stressful situations. And stressful situations can become dramatic pretty fast if you’re under the influence of psychedelics.
Connecting the dots
How can one take all of this and put it together into an unforgettable experience? One that is safe and above all legal? Such a place to do this does actually exist, and that place can be found in Holland’s Nature Temple!
The first time I saw photos of this place, I could hardly believe my eyes. It was as if it had been designed by the fungus itself. This project wasn’t simply from the mind of a human being but from the inspiration of the people who constructed this work upon the Earth: Mark and Maya.
When I (casually!) first happened upon the place online, I wrote to them straight away to communicate my pleasure at what I had found. I asked if I could send them a copy of my book to see if we were on the same page, and they replied immediately and resonated completely with what I had to say! This could not have happened if it weren’t for the longstanding relationship with mushrooms we had in common.
Nature Temple is a work of art which welcomes psychonauts in the best way possible. It is constructed out of natural materials and surrounded by a plethora of wildlife. The transparent roof lets in the sky, while the central fireplace is like a sun providing all important heat and warmth – important elements to any successful nighttime mushroom trip. You will find everything you need there to trip with others in a safe, assisted manner. Mark and his staff are highly experienced and attentive, and one can enjoy some perfectly chosen live music to accompany the experience.
This magical place is a positive response to every question one might have on the ideal situation in which to get acquainted with sacred mushrooms! An environment which is at once closed off and open to nature and the sky above; the night illuminated by the glow of the central fire; in the company of other voyagers but assisted by a sensitive and highly experienced team; music and silence masterfully alternated; the chance to delve into the deepest recesses without fear; and finally a carefully prepared inner adventure. This is the ideal context in which to explore consciousness itself.
To this date, my most beloved friends are ones I met during my years of ayahuasca ceremonies. Friends made under these circumstances are particularly special, and this too plays a part in one’s decision to approach the world of mushrooms through an intense and authentic ceremonial experience: at once the best way to meet the mushrooms, and the best to get to know some beautiful people.
I plan to expand on the topic of this marvellous place soon. So stay tuned if you want to know more.