Amanitas - A. muscaria & H.B. Woodrose
Citation: Earth Traveler. "A Sublime Journey: An Experience with Amanitas - A. muscaria & H.B. Woodrose (exp112715)". Erowid.org. Jan 4, 2019. erowid.org/exp/112715
A Sublime Journey
Amanita muscaria mushrooms have been used for centuries to alter consciousness by shamans in Siberia and other cultures. Occasionally I’ve found beautiful specimens among the pines in the back yard of my Wyoming mountain home, before they’re harvested by squirrels. This spring’s weather conditions produced an unprecedented huge crop of large ones, some the size of tea saucers. They appeared just as I had begun reading Michael Pollan’s fascinating study of psychedelics history and ongoing research, “How to Change Your Mind.” The synchronicity was my green light suggesting it was finally time to experiment again. So I gathered and dried a batch.
In the early ‘60s I took a couple of trips with morning glory seeds. The first time I prepared well, had a good guide, and had a transcendent perience. My second trip was awful because I wasn’t careful enough about set and setting, and took the drug out of curiosity rather than as a sacrament. The last of my six LSD trips was in the early 70s. Aside from cannabis, that was the extent of my drug experimentation. For the last several years I’d been feeling a growing urge to once again try an entheogen – “a drug that causes one to become inspired or to experience feelings of inspiration, often in a religious or spiritual manner.”
I’ve studied taiji for over 45 years and have faithfully practiced meditation (mostly Buddhist insight meditation) for over 40 years. I’d been feeling stuck in my meditation practice for a while, and hoped a mushroom journey would help me find a way through that. Although the ﬂuidity of the sense of self is familiar territory to me by now, I believed the mushroom would also make that more clear. And it did.
In order to be a better guide for me, the trusted friend who agreed to be my anchor read Pollan’s book and took a mushroom journey by himself a couple weeks before mine. He lives in a gorgeous rural setting, far from neighbors, with a river running through the back yard, a perfect retreat space. Around 9:30 AM on September 12, 2018, I carefully chewed up a medium-size mushroom (one medium cap of amanita) and four Hawaiian baby wild rose seeds (chemically similar to morning glory seeds). I included the seeds because my friend had taken them on his mushroom trip and had a powerful positive experience. The mushroom tasted earthy and unique. The seeds had little taste. I started experiencing a perceptual shift within minutes.
So much happened during my mushroom journey that the following day I thought I could write an extremely long story or a short novel about it. Instead I’ve had difficulty writing anything at all. The experience was so profound that words can barely hint at the reality. The day was sublime and magnificent, and I spent much of it in awe. Recalling it continues to inspire awe. Because of my meditation practice I encountered nothing unfamiliar.
Recalling it continues to inspire awe. Because of my meditation practice I encountered nothing unfamiliar.
Yet like looking at things through a microscope or telescope, the ordinary was transformed into the extraordinary.
My primary goal was to ask the mushroom’s help in exploring some habitual physical knots, in particular one calf muscle I’ve been trying to loosen for years with little success. When my friend massaged it, his touch released a stream of childhood memories involving my large, close, extended family. I was transported to a family farm and searched through memories and feelings until settling on a painful incident involving a cousin’s betrayal. The accompanying humiliation was apparently the source of my leg discomfort. I have yet to understand the connection, and there has been no noticeable change in the muscle.
Touch on the other knee brought up memories of its own physical injury, which also happened around that time, involving another cousin. I was surprised to discover many tight muscles in that calf as well. I’ve been exploring that injury’s physical consequences since the memory came up in taiji years ago, but I’d paid little attention before to the emotional aspects of the memory. I now recalled humiliation, growing up in Wyoming with great pressure to cowboy up, tough it out, be a man, and above all don’t be a sissy and cry. While exploring my calf muscles a few days later, I remembered the phrase “to cut someone off at the knees,” deﬁned as “to squelch or humiliate suddenly and thoroughly.” This made perfect sense.
I spent much of the day thinking about my many cousins and countless other people I love. Each person I thought of seemed quite present, in a state where time and space were far more elastic. As I lay on my back on the grass under a favorite tree, listening to the river, watching the blue sky and clouds through shimmering leaves, each falling leaf seemed like a jolly little reminder to wake up. I felt profound love for the tree, which had provided me welcome shade on many summer days, and opportunities to watch nesting birds. I realized that everything in nature can be a teacher if we slow down enough to truly pay attention to the natural world, including the body.
Many insights came while thinking about my taiji students and how I might teach them more effectively. I realized that we contract our neck muscles in reaction to thoughts of both superiority and inferiority. When we feel inferior or unworthy, the mid-back bends forward, the shoulders round in submission and defensiveness, and the neck pinches. When we feel superior, we tighten the mid-back, pull the shoulders back, and tilt the head back in conceit, pinching the neck. In addition to molding customary posture, this dynamic also happens at subtle levels from moment to moment as our thoughts constantly swing from one pole to the other, coming to rest only when the ego is silent.
I came to regard the mushroom as a wise, benevolent guide and helper. It reminded me frequently to notice the tensions in my belly as well. Although I never actually felt nauseated, throughout the day I felt countless gentle upchuck-impulse signals to slow down, pay attention, and relax the abdominal muscles. (The closest I came to nausea was in response to my friend’s suggestion that I take a later booster dose of mushroom, which I declined.) The subtle nausea signals continued to a lesser degree three weeks later, repeatedly showing me how habitually I hold unnecessary belly tensions. Over and over I was reminded to let go of any resistance as soon as I noticed it.
I was pleasantly surprised by how functional I was throughout the day, and the experience bolstered my confidence in my ability to deal with whatever may come my way. My friend said later that I was unusually gregarious and extroverted.
I was unusually gregarious and extroverted.
I became very talkative, and was aware that my unusual behavior was sometimes unsettling to him. I got plenty of practice watching my impulse to apologize.
Years ago at a three-week meditation retreat, a new group of people joined us halfway through. Their much faster energy felt like being in a swarm of bees or a herd of buffalo. Similarly, during my mushroom journey my friend’s pace seemed like sitting next to a busy freeway. When I went to bed at eleven that night, my mind was still so active that I didn’t fall asleep for a couple more hours, well past my usual bedtime.
In the course of my mushroom journey I offered up two prayers: “May I be a clear channel for this love,” and “May this understanding continue.” The increased level of sensitivity and body awareness does continue. Whenever I slow down enough, I can easily find my way back to that awareness. When I step outdoors, nature clears my mind more easily than before. After a lifetime of soap opera drama and angst, much of my time in recent years is spent in peaceful bliss. My mushroom
experience taught me a different way of seeing, making that state easier to access.
I’d like to take another journey in solitude, perhaps next spring, to see how that changes the experience. Next time I’ll skip the Hawaiian baby wood rose seeds. Wondering whether a dried mushroom qualiﬁes as a living being, I recall the Buddha’s encouragement to avoid holding on to “the idea that a self, a person, a living being, or a lifespan exists.” Nonetheless, I imagine the mushroom as a friend living under the soil in the back yard, now asleep for the winter.
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