Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Joe Omundson

mushrooms

2 days ago, I tripped on psychedelic mushrooms for the first time in about 16 months.

I drove out from Moab to a place in the desert I'd camped before, but it was occupied with a tent, so I drove past it to explore and see what else I could find. I'm glad it worked out that way because I found an incredible campsite not much farther down the road. I parked on an expanse of slickrock, with a whole complex of rock slabs at different levels that were fun to explore; they led down to the edge of a beautiful canyon, with a cliff that dropped maybe 100 feet. It was a stunning view and a great spiritual setting for my trip. I didn't see or hear another person while I was out there.

(Can you spot my car?)


I ate the mushrooms right at 6:00 PM. Well, I ate half of them, and waited another hour to see how I felt about taking the second half, since I knew nothing about this particular batch of mushroom or how many grams of it I had. To occupy myself during the onset phase I reorganized the contents of my car/home and did a bit of cleaning as I listened to music.

About 30 minutes in, as I was just starting to feel enhanced, I did some simple yoga poses and experienced them in my whole body. The texture of the rock gave a better grip under my feet than any yoga mat.

By 7:00 I could see some visual effects and sensed the psychological change, and my stomach started to feel a bit uneasy like it normally does. I wanted to lie down and do nothing. But I felt good overall, and ready for a decent trip, so I ate the second half too.

I have been having some realizations lately about the left side of my body vs. my right, and I noticed something related to a constant tension I have in my left neck, shoulder, and jaw. It's like an inability to truly relax and put weight into that area. I spent some time focusing on that and responding to the sensations with whatever movements they requested, and I feel like I made an adjustment to myself. I think this might be related to a time when I broke my left wrist and was in a cast up to my shoulder for several weeks; I relived the experience of breaking the wrist and painfully waiting for a ride to the hospital. Now that the wrist is healed I don't need to protect it from feeling painful anymore, but it's a hard habit to break.

I had an interesting idea at around this point. As background -- I am very interested in the mind-body connection and how our awareness is truly spread out through our bodies. I have a theory that the layers of fascia, which run throughout our bodies in sheets, encompassing muscles and organs, giving us much of our bodily structure, are in fact a neurological extension to the brain and that is why we associate certain emotional traumas with physical patterns of holding in specific areas of our bodies. Our minds are literally spread out through our whole bodies.

Anyway, I was thinking about how fungus grows... a network of mycelium underneath the soil, with the "fruit" of the fungus probing above ground as mushrooms. These organisms can grow very large and some people think that they have their own kind of complex intelligence. So my idea was this: what if these mushrooms create psilocybin because it is somehow chemically conducive to the kind of intelligence that connects a sheety network of awareness, and this is why when we ingest it, it connects awareness inside our fascia in a similar way?

Mushrooms can be therapeutic in revealing to us parts of ourselves that we normally hide from. And much of the way we hide from our pain is through contractions in our fascia that we are not even aware of. So it makes sense to me that if psilocybin is inherently an agent for connection and awareness, it could lead to the result that so many people experience, of becoming more integrated in mind and body as the whole fascial system learns to relate to itself in a fuller way.

Usually when I eat mushrooms, the onset starting at 45-60 minutes after ingestion feels uncomfortable, and can feel intense for an hour or two after that. Then, as the intensity gradually starts to fade out, the really pleasant part begins, where my mind feels fascinated and opened and clear, my body feels peaceful, my spirit fresh. This trip was no exception, but I noticed that the way I navigated the experience was different.

I've gone through a lot of growing experiences in the last 16 months, and to me, it felt like my mind was more integrated and self-accepting going into this trip. I was able to flow with my own needs and never felt stuck or overly anxious. I had never actually taken mushrooms in 2 doses like that, opting instead to attempt to calculate the exact dose I would need to get the desired effect; I think doing it all at once is actually more stressful, to commit to the plunge like that instead of giving myself a chance to see how I feel and adjusting the dose accordingly.

I spent most of the uncomfortable part of the trip lying on my mattress, just sitting with the feelings. I knew the stomach discomfort was from the mushrooms (... and maybe the pizza buffet). The mental discomfort -- the inability to ignore certain painful thoughts and memories -- was actually not that bad. A couple of times I felt sad about people or situations, but I just cried for a bit and let the feeling flow through; after all the processing I did when I was backpacking, none of this was surprising.

And I think that's the difference -- when I first took mushrooms in my early twenties, there was a lot of stuff I was lying about to myself without realizing it. When the psilocybin would reveal to me the contents of my mind and body, it was very disorienting and it felt like my world was crashing down sometimes. I would grapple with the stats I had used to identify myself, which suddenly seemed alien and hard to remember... where did I go to college, how old was I, what was my religious upbringing.

I think losing track of those kinds of things happens more with a heavier trip, and this one felt on the lighter side. But still, there was a difference because this time I felt like there was no aspect of my mind that surprised me to discover or forget. Even with the things that were painful, it was like "yep, there's that old hurt again. Still hurts a bit. Nothing new to see here." And so it was easier to set it aside once I'd sat with it for a while. It was easier not only to accept the uncomfortable parts, but also the feelings of intimacy and joy.

After a while, maybe a little after 8:00, my stomach settled down and I decided to go for a walk. Interestingly by this point I already seemed to be over the subtle, warping visuals that I have come to expect. I hopped down some of the rock slabs to explore the edge of the canyon, giving the edge a respectable margin. I found one large slab in particular near the edge that felt like the place to be, so I spent some time sitting on it and absorbing the world around me.

(My sitting rock is the one on the right)


It was sunset, it had been a 100 degree day, and these rocks were emitting the heat they'd stored from baking in the sun. I imagined what it would be like to be able to see the infrared spectrum and the literal glow that was shining up all around me. It was actually very pleasant to be in contact with these stone surfaces, which were probably completely sterile from all the UV radiation, and I felt a sense of connection with this section of solid earth that exposes itself to the air. Each day eroding just slightly so new atoms are brushing the atmosphere, yet all connected solidly into the crust of the Earth for millions of years. Ancient and constantly new.

I noticed the sliver of new moon near the sunset. This immediately made me think of a new friend I have recently met, because we had looked up the moon cycle calendar the night before; here was our new moon. She was traveling through the area, we met and hung out and camped for several days, and then I said goodbye to her the same morning as my trip, as she continued on her journey. I reflected on this experience quite a bit, feeling much warmth and gratitude in my heart. Very few times in my life have I met someone whose outlook on life felt so similar to mine and connected so easily. We shared many passions and perspectives, and our conversations were engaging and enriching to me. Her conscious wisdom inspired changes in me. It was beautiful.

I regretted not knowing how to express my gratitude to her in a more meaningful way, yet at the same time I felt like it was perfect and I wouldn't change anything. I wondered if our interaction meant as much to her as it did to me, or if it seemed disproportionately significant to me because of my own particular history, circumstances, and desires; maybe she has these kinds of easy connections on a frequent basis. Whatever the case, her kindness and presence was like a healing ointment seeping into the fissures of my heart, and whatever happens in the future I will always think of her with so much peace and respect.



Back by my car, I did some more movements. I put myself into a plank position and slowly lowered myself to the ground, except instead of imagining myself "lowering", I imagined myself as stationary, and allowing the entire earth to come up towards me. In this way I accepted the earth, embracing it. I felt at peace with this warm, comforting rock. I perceived the entire earth as benevolent and nurturing.

Sunset faded to darkness, and with the new moon below the horizon, no city lights, and not a cloud in the sky, I was privileged to bathe in the light of the milky way. I played music from my car and brought my bedding outside onto the slickrock, where I would eventually fall asleep in the warm breeze. I stayed up until 12:30 or 1:00 taking photos of the night sky. I watched satellites, shooting stars, airplanes, and constellations, I thought about the relative positioning of the axis of our planet with the disk of the milky way, and let my body sink into the ground.



Overall, though it was a relatively mild trip, I felt very interested by it. It was a good check-in. It seems like I am slowly getting to a place where I can let go of fear and worry, and live in connection to the love that I find around me. It's always interesting to notice how my own state of happiness and ease tends to generate positive interactions with other people who seem to feel the same way, even on the street or at the grocery store. In some sense it's kind of a vicious thing... in order to have loving interactions, you have to feel that way on your own, first. At least in our society, we tend to avoid connecting with people who seem down, hurt, angry, afraid, and that feedback loop makes those people feel even more isolated.

I'm not sure what can be done about that, but I know I want to work on myself to become a happier person and experience loving connection on a regular basis, and from that point I will be more able to reach out to those who need it. I'm trying to accept that spending time making myself whole and healthy is actually the best thing I can do for the world around me. It's hard because every day I see examples of abuse, between lovers or between parents and children, and it devastates me. A happy future for everyone seems a long way off. Yet I can only change what I can change, namely myself, so that's what I'll have to keep focusing on.

Joe Omundson

About Joe Omundson -

Joe Omundson is working to piece together a cohesive philosophy of lifestyle, spirituality, society, and the natural world.

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