Forty Years on the Medicine Path

Autumn 2007 Vol. 17, No. 2 Special Edition: Psychedelics and Self Discovery

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Almost 40 years ago, when I was 23, I took LSD for the first time. I look back on that life-changing event as the first day of my adult life, a real rebirth. In fact, during that first dive into expanded consciousness I experienced death and rebirth several times, as well as journeys through strange and utterly fantastic landscapes. I went through heaven and hell, and learned what the words "terror" and "bliss" really mean. Religion, spirituality and God began to make sense to me. Until that day I had been rigidly scientific, only believing what my senses told me was true. I continue to love science, although my scientific view now includes all the experiences I have had in expanded consciousness since that first journey. I revel in the fact that modern physics is exploring new models of reality that incorporate some aspects of the LSD experience.

It took me six years to get up the courage to take LSD again and another seven years after that for my third journey. I did not want to try it again, but my scientific mind and my intuition kept telling me that exploring this new territory was important. Psychedelics just kept calling to me. In the meantime, I got married, had two children, and, at the age of 38 I moved with my family to California. It was in the San Francisco Bay area that I met a guide who used substances in his healing practice and actually specialized in "unresolved" psychedelic experiences. My previous experiences were unresolved indeed. I had grown up with various moderate psychological problems such as obsessive and compulsive thoughts, perfectionism and a need for control. I still lived with a great deal of anxiety. My earlier LSD trips had touched on these problems just enough to bring them to the surface, but weren’t deep or sustained enough to resolve them. I knew I needed help.

Over the next twelve years I had three or four one-on-one sessions each year with my guide using high doses of either LSD or psilocybin mushrooms. Each session consisted of a day of preparation, the journey itself, in which I was blindfolded, and several hours of processing and integration of the experience afterwards. At the beginning of this twelve-year adventure most of my journeys were filled with difficult material related to my personality and background. I’m not really sure what kept me going back for more, except that I felt like I had no choice. I had tried many other forms of therapy, but none were as effective as psychedelics. Over the years I developed tools that helped me navigate in expanded consciousness, and my experiences progressed from personality issues into more spiritual realms. I began to have journeys characterized by tremendous spiritual insight and divine love rather than darkness and difficulty.

“[Psychedelic therapy] made me aware of many personality issues that were crippling me, and it taught me how to be a father to my children.”

At the same time I was learning to be a husband, a father to my two children and a householder. I have no doubt that without the aid of psychedelics and my incredibly gifted guide, I would not have been successful at all of my responsibilities. My psychedelic therapy allowed me to work through an attachment to suffering, which came partly from my traditional Jewish upbringing. It made me aware of many personality issues that were crippling me, and it taught me how to be a father to my children. I remember one experience I had in which I felt, in altered consciousness, what it is like to be a child treated harshly by his father. I vowed then and there to make every effort not to put out such harsh energy to my own children, and, if I accidentally did, I would immediately apologize. This is just one of many experiences of teaching that were so important to me during this time.

Psychedelics started me on a spiritual path that has become the foundation of my life. I began a lifelong meditation practice and became intensely interested in Buddhism, which provided a map of the territory I was exploring in my sessions. I am almost certain that my 30-year marriage would not have survived without this spiritual path. I cannot imagine living without the lessons and tools I have gained in expanded consciousness.

At the end of my twelve years of guided healing with the aid of substances, I was encouraged to do a high dose mushroom session by myself, with my guide nearby. During this blissful and terrifying session I learned that I had the tools to journey on my own into these realms. The experience was tremendously empowering. I had graduated to a new level of exploration.

"I had tried many other forms of therapy, but none were as effective as psychedelics."

For five years I took an intentional vacation from altering my consciousness in any way. Then, at age 55 I went on a solo pilgrimage to Manaus, Brazil, where I drank ayahuasca for the first time in a therapeutic context. This experience, like my first LSD trip, was life-transforming. I had finally found my medicine, or rather the medicine had found me. During the last seven years, with the help of this amazing mixture of plants, I have made tremendous progress with issues of control, obsessive thinking, fear and finding meaningful work. With the help of insights obtained with the use of ayahausca, I summoned the courage to leave a corporate job to pursue teaching, and I have broken the back of a lifelong food addiction. My spiritual life is incredibly rich, my marriage is alive and vibrant and I am comfortable in my role as a father.

I returned to Brazil several more times, once with my wife and another time with my daughter. All of my earlier experiences with psychedelics lead me to what in South America is called "the medicine" or la purga ("the purge"). I live with less anxiety and worry, and I have days where I marvel at the beauty and creativity that surrounds me.

I truly cannot imagine who I would be without the knowledge and wisdom I have received through the use of psychedelics. They have taught me how to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They introduced me to spirituality, and have allowed me to gain insights about life, death and immortality. They have taught me how to live. I am forever grateful to the guide who helped extricate me from suffering, and to all those who have gone before and paved the way for those of us on the medicine path.