#93 The trip’s not real until you book your ticket

A few topics are swirling around my mind and inspiring today’s stream. Recently, I read Strassman, Wojtowicz, Luna, and Frecska’s book Inner Paths to Outer Space (2008) for a paper that’ll be published this fall. I enjoyed the entire book, but I’m thinking specifically about Rick Strassman’s Chapter 11 called “Preparation for the Journey” (p. 268-298). In it, he discusses scenarios that might come up during a psychedelic trip, how to anticipate and address them, and what to do if some of these cases arise. I recommend their book and Strassman’s chapter on preparation.

Also in recent news is a phenomenon sweeping China called “mystery box.” The gist is: you sign up to a paid service that delivers packages with unknown contents. You might get gift cards to spend at major brand stores, online vouchers, anything you can think of really. One of the mysteries that can be delivered to your house are live animals. That’s right; puppies, kittens, and baby rabbits are being delivered in the mail, many of them die during transit and some are dead on arrival. This caused a bit of concern about the Chinese mystery box craze, (i) regarding the welfare of animals being shipped as ordinary packages, and (ii) the welfare of animals after delivery, that is, some recipients not wanting to receive an animal and disposing of it. In short, I think it’s best that humans don’t deliver live animals in mystery boxes and instead stick to name brand gift vouchers.

The third thing that’s on my mind regards preparing for one’s psychedelic experience. I traveled a lot in my 20s. Backpacked the world for five years, hopped all over and spent longer periods in choice locales. No matter where I was, one thing was always clear: the next leg of the trip didn’t feel real until I bought the plane tickets (at the very least) and sometimes, not always, after I’d book the accommodation. Something happens cognitively, some switch that’s flipped in one’s mind, when one financially invests in the future, whatever that may be. In this case, dropping serious cash on a plane ticket—most were not refundable, hence the cheaper price—meant the trip was real, I was going to that place, nothing can stop me now.

The wheels are in motion, things start happening on their own and you’re getting swept by it. Things start happening like meeting someone from the area you’re going to, or someone says to meet their friend there who’ll show you around, or all sorts of recommendations. There’s a mental part of you already there, as if your future self is there and is expecting your present self to arrive. It’s a strange feeling, one I haven’t really meditated on until now. I want to visit my family in the U.S., for example, but I’m steering clear of all international travel at the moment because of the corona pandemic. I speak with my family regularly over the phone; physically going to visit them is a different story. I know I’ll see them when I’m comfortable with the global health and safety situation, I know my next trip abroad will be to see them, but since I haven’t bought the ticket, it doesn’t feel real, a part of me is not there yet to prepare for my physical arrival.

I think where I’m going with the abovementioned examples is that the same thing happens when you prepare for a psychedelic experience. FIRST, you should prepare, especially if you’ve never taken mind-altering drugs before. To this point, Strassman’s chapter is informative in awakening readers to what could happen during experiences and what one can do to prepare. SECOND, the psychedelic trip is always a mystery. It’s doubly mysterious if you’ve never taken substance X, so to speak, because you don’t know what you’ll experience and further you won’t know how the what will be given to your consciousness, perception, and mind. Having experience with a particular drug suggests you have an idea how it’ll alter you, but the contents of that experience are always mysterious and therefore remain unknown until after you come out of the experience. THIRD, you aren’t actually going on any trip until you book the psychedelic retreat, harvest your mushroom crops, synchronize your schedule with your sober friend who’ll look after you, and so forth. There are so many factors you must plan in order to dispatch your future self, your mental projection, or whatever that part of you is called that does the reconnaissance or groundwork-laying for your present self’s arrival. A nice visual analogy just popped into my mind: If you’ve seen Donnie Darko (2001), there’s a scene toward the end of the film where this plasma umbilical-cord-like thing projects from the protagonist’s torso leading him to his future destination. That’s sort of what I’m thinking about regarding trip preparation, yet there’s no cord, simply something mentally projected into a particular time and space.

Finally, I would be remiss to not mention that my “tickets” (all the things one can and must plan for) are booked for my upcoming trip. My ducks are in a row. The pieces are set. I am physically here, but, again, some mental part of me is “there.” I have a good idea how the experience will unfold; the what or the content is like the mystery box. What will I get, how will I cope with what I get, how will this experience broaden or contract me, change me, make me realize something I had never thought of before, will I be okay? The trip is real, it’s happening, everything I do now is a waiting period, a countdown to the actual moment of ingestion. Rattling nerves is a good sign, I think. It means this is real (at least to me), this means something, this matters.

Strassman, R., Wojtowicz, S., Luna, L. E., & Frecska, E. (2008). Inner Paths to Outer Space: Journeys to Alien Worlds through Psychedelics and Other Spiritual Technologies. Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press.

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