Nearly fifty years after Timothy Leary, who evangelized hallucinogenic experience as part of the hippy generation (which was, arguably, a failed social movement that ended up more as a bacchanal than a New Age) there is renewed interest in psychedelics for emotional, psychological and spiritual purposes.

A recent article in the New York Times, “Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again,” was intriguing on a number of levels.  In safely controlled and comfortable laboratory settings, patients with conditions such as intractable depression were given psychedelic mushrooms, and came back from their “trips” changed beings.

Dr. Clark Martin, a retired psychologist ailing with depression in the context of kidney cancer reported, “All of a sudden, everything familiar started evaporating.  Imagine you fall off a boat out in the open ocean, and you turn around, and the boat is gone. And then the water’s gone. And then you’re gone.”

More than a year after his single six-hour experience, Martin credits it with “helping him overcome his depression and profoundly transforming his relationships with his daughter and friends. He ranks it among the most meaningful events of his life, which makes him a fairly typical member of a growing club of experimental subjects.”

This brought to mind a couple of things—a guy who lived down the hall from me in college who we called “mushroom man,” and also Daniel Pinchbeck’s writings in 2012 about his journeys into exotic places and mind-states.  Mushroom man was eccentric—elfin with scraggly hair, stacks of empty yogurt cups and a violin under his bed.  He would forage in the woods for mushrooms and dry them in the clothes dryer.  One time we “penny’d” his door (which locks you in your room) during a mushroom trip for mushroom man and he freaked out and leapt out the window, which fortunately was not dangerously high… still I tended to associate ‘shrooms with bad plans.

Pinchbeck’s mushroom experiences lead him to believe that the earth’s secret code is contained within this sacred fungal carrier of deep and cosmic wisdom, a key that unlocks time.  Still, I preferred to read about his experiences rather than trek through the uncomfortable wilds trying to change the world’s consciousness.

On the other hand, however, I do feel that the collective consciousness is shifting; and just as some people are more blocked than others emotionally, perhaps some people are more open to the unitive feeling that we are all in something together than others… that different people unfold in different ways (and for some, mushrooms might be just the ticket).  Perhaps the difference is that of a party substance versus a serious mind-opening experience for which requisite maturity, trust-worthy guides and a safe environment are prerequisites… not to mention the notion of a once-in-a-lifetime sort of trip vs. a recreational response to boredom or novelty seeking.

“Under the influences of hallucinogens,” Dr. Grob (one of the researchers) writes, “individuals transcend their primary identification with their bodies and experience ego-free states before the time of their actual physical demise, and return with a new perspective and profound acceptance of the life constant: change.”

Now if we were to get really trippy, we might consider the question of whether we concretely need a mushroom to unlock our minds at all, or if the mushroom is but a symbol growing in the wilds of this lucid dream called life on earth—a symbol of the possibility of transcending fear and desire, and something attainable even sans hallucinogens.

Just as the human body creates opiates and the brain has receptors for them, perhaps the body also can spontaneously create whatever chemicals are in psilocybin (mushroom magic) under the right conditions.

While some people love massage, I prefer yoga—working consciously with the body to allow it to open, soften and relax in tandem with the mind and the spirit.  Thus maybe hallucinogens are a quick route to open a door that is better opened slowly and with a bit of personal effort… but still well worth opening.

Further, while a mature psyche might be liberated by blowing a car out in one’s mind so to speak, a younger psyche might be destabilized, and in turn be less inclined to participate in our world of getting and spending if the bubble of our so-called reality is prematurely popped (such liberation might be a good thing on some level, yet also trigger our dread as parents—that our kids might end up hopelessly lost and disengaged entirely from the world of pragmatic reality… even if we question the overall health of that real world).  In other words, it seems really important to protect kids from all sorts of drugs, but particularly mind-loosening hallucinogens; one kid might just have a bad trip, but another kid might be triggered into what had been an underlying risk for psychosis—illnesses that typically onset in adolescence.

So while I am far from calling for everyone to turn on, tune in and drop out via drugs, I do think that there just might be a cosmic podcast that our brains come wired to receive.  Perhaps yoga, prayer, meditation (and parenting) are also potential paths to tuning into our higher consciousness, offering drug-free and organic liberation from the ego with its fears and desires, and movement toward lives actually and triumphantly lived (in full view of the inevitability of change, including death of the body).

Back in the day, and by that I mean the “paradise” of pre-history, I don’t think we humans needed no stinkin’ mushrooms to know that we were one with nature.  There is evidence that ancient cultures made use of mushrooms as part of sacred ritual, but as we advance we might just get there without the shrooms.  To me the mushroom is a potential symbol of the humble earthy wisdom that we are one, that time is an artificial construct, that everything just is… but to literally eat a mushroom is itself a concretization of the mushroom’s ultimate point:  if everything drops away on the trip, the mushroom drops away as well (so interesting that the symbol of modern annihilation is the “mushroom clouds” of nuclear weapons).

Ultimately it seems that the point of a well made “trip” is to appreciate returning, and being, home—to realize that there is no place like home, that “home” is the consciousness in which we dwell, and not merely our skin suits which are suitable for incarnation, but which do not truly last.

If a mushroom brings understanding, fantastic.  But so might a poem, a dream, a lover’s touch, a Madeline for Proust or a moment with our children.  Explaining is rather impossible (and yet I try, foolish me) while it is understanding which brings the real deal—the seeing from the sacred to the sacred.  So I choose to dedicate this day to understanding—in the service of that which unites us all, and which surely encompasses not only all of us parents, but all our collective children.

Namaste, Bruce

p.s. do any readers feel that they have had, with or without substances, epiphanies or fear-obliterating spiritual moments that they would be willing to share, to dare to try to explain the unexplainable (or blog about and let us know to check it out)?  The point would be to seek ways as a group to get to a place of greater enlightenment by consciously cobbling together our experiences… which, after all, just may truly be one experience.


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12 Responses to “Shrooms”

  1. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    The closest I’ve come to a spiritual experience happened about a year ago. A week after my baby was born, I lie in bed at home, sleep-deprived and still recovering from a c-section, when some potent combination of new mom hormones mixed with Percocet and that magical space between wakefulness and sleep resulted in a single revelation: “I am so lucky.” I felt a rush of heat (again, hormones?), was overwhelmed by tears of joy (not an experience I have often), and, for just a moment, felt connected to some force bigger than myself.

    Generally very wary of new experiences, especially those hastened by psychotropic drugs, I think I will have to wait for my next period of surgical recovery to feel that way again.

    Or maybe yoga?

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Thanks for sharing this as we a all venture toward more conscious connection with that force bigger than ourselves that usually rests upon the other side of the veil of our consciousness. I am particularly interested in how our individual ephiphanies might relate to our collective ones…

      Yes, “yoga,” the binding of body, mind and spirit. Namaste

  2. Lindsey M Nelson Says:

    The moment I gave birth to my first son and heard him cry was the most profound of my life. I had this sensation of being in a place where time did not exist, of having broken through dimensional barriers, of being one with the universal energy. And even though it was just a mere second or two, it was more powerful than any drug-induced trip I had ever been on. From what I hear, giving birth naturally in a loving and respectful environment (or even having unassisted childbirth) is an even more profound feeling which I hope to experience someday.

    I have one friend who (unintentionally) gave birth in her garage, completely alone (her husband had run inside to call 911). Despite having just given birth, she said she felt so high and powerful that she could have climbed a mountain or run a marathon.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Birth does seem like the universal way in which we personally pierce the veil of being and non-being, or of consciousness, via vaginal birth or C-Section, and I think offers a great clue into the force that does collectively unite us, but which we generally consciously experience only at the threshold of the sacred.

      Namaste and thanks for stepping forward to share these experiences.

  3. joely Says:

    I consider my self a deeply spiritual person. I do not like to put a label on my spitituality but for all intensive purposes I am a catholic. My friend says she is a Jewbu(jewish buddist), so I guess that makes me judeo-christianbu, most days I am not even sure about organized religion at all. But I like the tradition and connection to the world and my ancestors in a catholic ceremony, so that is what I do. I practice my spirituality through catholic rituals and chants and prayers. When I do yoga I chant the rosary.
    I have had many life changing moments occur in church, with insense, and the cross above me. My most vivid one, was during lent several years back. I had been feeling restles, so I took myself to the stations of the cross on a Friday morning. The people started to sing a song in acapella as the priest left the church.
    Were you there
    When they laid Him in the tomb?
    Oh! Sometimes it causes me
    To tremble, tremble, tremble
    The song, the words, the reverence, all literallly caused me to tremble and fall to my knees. I felt such deep connection with the universe and “god” in that moment. My thoughts were empty but in a glowing blue light sort of way, maybe the way the sun looks when you close your eyes and look at it. It was such a fullfilling moment and it took all the feelings of restlessness away. I have tried to encourage my family, mostly my husband to just let go of all the dogma of the church and just feel that amazing peace and serenity that can be found if you just let go. It is a lot like a drug.
    I think that first time was like the entry way into my spirit. Since then, I have also felt that way during yoga or running, but the first time was the most impactful. I did not know it was possible to get that high. It seems like lately my long runs take there more than I ever. The adrenaline kicks in, I feel strong, and my thoughts melt away. My healthy addictions.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Some say that the cross symbolizes the intersection of space and time, and at that wormhole of consciousness epiphanies seem more likely to occur. It sounds like you are an open channel, open to a mix of cultures—this seems like the direction we are all going in a collective sense.


  4. Jack Says:

    I have had several moments that stand out. Some of them involve my children, their births were amazing.

    Been thinking a bit about a moment when I was 16. I was in Israel, in the hills overlooking Jerusalem. It was night time, a holiday called TishaB’Av- very somber.

    We were chanting Eicha and I really felt like I was taken to a different place. It is a good topic you have chosen here, but I really need to think more about it.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Yes, it’s hard to really get into words, but I’d be interested to hear more about that experience… and the birth of kids, that does seem to be a common point where mystical threads cross in our lives.

  5. kendraro Says:

    I have totally had some transcendent moments under the influence of psychedelics, and particularly when seeing the Grateful Dead – and on one of these occasions realized that I have dreams that come true. Because of the symbolic nature of dreams, and the way we forget them quickly, I don’t think I would have realized this without those “doors of perception” being opened. It has helped me understand that our ideas about time are very limited.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Yes I agree about our notions of time seeming to limit us in “normal” waking life, or at least the socially constructed and shared reality of modern times… which drop away in states of awakened consciousness.

      Ultimately it is we who are the doors that stand between worlds.

  6. Amber Says:

    Bruce, I have had many experiences. One experience that I intently recall is during my pregnancy with my first. I was in the hospital and about to head into surgery (an appendectomy) and was freaked out. Everything had happened so fast–one minute they were looking at the MRI results and the next minute they were prepping me for surgery. My husband must have seen my concern because he offered to bless me. His blessing brought a profound spirit of peace. I knew that I was going to be all right. The fear I had had over my daughter and her potential premature birth evaporated. The calm sense of assurance stuck with me during surgery and in the recovery room.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Whatever these mysteries might mean, the power of love does seem to defy and exceed words and the realm of the rational. I’m just glad to read that you were both calmed and all came out alright.

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