Citation: Jg84208. "What Would Einstein Do?: An Experience with Nitrous Oxide & Cannabis (exp75591)". Erowid.org. Aug 25, 2009. erowid.org/exp/75591
I have experimented with nitrous oxide and cannabis for about 2 years. Some of what others have already written alludes to sensations and conclusions that I have reached independently. Only after taking copious notes on what I was finding, did I stumble on some similar write-ups. From what Iíve read so far, the following Ďexperiencesí mention some of the same findings Iíve documented and resonated well:
My opinions about extensive nitrous oxide use are somewhat ambivalent. On one hand Iíve had significant life changes (all for the better) because of the manageable ego-death, rebirth experience nitrous oxide can provide. On the other hand, it seems this chemical can result in mental clumsiness, hypoxia, and B-vitamin deficiency with excessive use.
:::Personal introduction to nitrous oxide:::
When I was first introduced to nitrous oxide, it was in a dentistís chair as a child. The warm, comfortable, and euphoric effects were immediate and made an impression on me. As an adult in my early 30ís, I was re-introduced to nitrous oxide on a recreational basis. With frequent use and experimentation Iíve found there are both enjoyable and valuable mental and physical results. Iíve reached the point where the only reason I use nitrous and cannabis is for the philosophical, illuminating, and self-improvement effects. The results of experiencing ego-death can be profoundly insightful. I have seen that I have not become the person I want/need to be and changes must be made. I have also pondered questions such as; What are my next steps in life? Am I willing to take them? What are my fears? Why are they there? These nitrous experiences are usually euphoric and sometimes disconcerting depending on my mental state and eagerness for self-improvement.
:::Getting started Ė with pot:::
These days, before using nitrous oxide, Iíll smoke a few grams of pot (enough to fill a small pipe) and wait 10 minutes for the effects to creep up on me. With consistent experimentation, Iíve learned that cannabis has an amplifying effect on my mind. Whatever emotion I feel at the moment is exaggerated with cannabis. Additionally, any thoughts are more readily connected to other ideas that had previously just been bouncing around for no obvious reason. Emotionally, if Iím nervous about being ďcaughtĒ smoking pot, my entire being is filled with paranoia. If Iím nervous about appearing cool to my friends, I begin worrying about how to behave so I will feel accepted. If life seems beautiful and abundant, the pot exaggerates those feelings and confirms all the wonderful reasons why I should be grateful for this opportunity to be alive. And, if Iím genuinely grateful and feel appreciation for each moment, cannabis usually rewards me with deep personal and spiritual insights.
:::After smoking cannabis, prepare for nitrous:::
If the pot has pointed me in a healthy, uplifting direction, only then will I consider using nitrous oxide. I will set a limit for myself before inhaling the first cartridge. If nothing worthwhile has happened after the first 4 cartridges, Iíll stop and accept tonight just wasnít my night for nitrous. If each experience is enjoyable and uplifting, Iíll continue. After about 12 cartridges, the consciousness expansion effects become less intense for me. Anything more than that, I start feeling woozy and a bit drunk. Thatís not the point anymore.
:::Nitrous health reminder:::
One cartridge is almost a lungful. To reduce the risk of depleting my brain of oxygen, Iíll take about ten deep breaths beforehand to over-oxygenate my blood. The idea is to keep enough healthy oxygen going to the brain while the nitrous oxide displaces it. Iíve seen several friends use so much their lips turn blue (and sometimes lose consciousness). I canít imagine this is healthy. Hypoxia can lead to brain damage, so I donít consider any amount of hypoxia to be acceptable.
:::Length of the effects from nitrous:::
The strong effects of nitrous last about as long as I can hold my breath. Well before I start straining to keep the nitrous in my lungs, Iíll start taking slow, shallow breaths. This usually sustains the Ďhighí a bit longer, while introducing oxygen back into my blood.
:::The consciousness expansion process:::
The positive effects of nitrous occur in waves or cycles for me and seem reproducible. There is benefit to deliberately experiencing ego-death, but Iíll leave that discussion to the texts written by academics and spiritual pioneers. For now Iíll just say that my personal nitrous experiences often follow a general, cyclical pattern that becomes increasingly amplified with use (and can bypass the potential trauma of ego-death):
STEP 1: I focus on a highly respected and idealistic figure. Having a scientific background, Iíve picked Albert Einstein. His humanitarian philosophies combined with whatís allowable (and encouraged) from a quantum physics perspective continue to stand up to all my sober tests (weíre 99.99% empty space, yet full of consciousness). Images of the Buddha also seem helpful. But meditating on the Buddha only worked after I studied the Buddhist teachings extensively and saw they can be consistently applied to all daily life without causing conflict.
STEP 2: I inhale a balloon (lung full) of nitrous oxide. Sit back. Relax. Close my eyes.
STEP 3: I try to resist the urge to latch on to all the ideas that pop into my mind on the way up. I keep focusing on my idealistic figure. If it falters, I start breathing, remember where I went off course, think about why that happened a bit. Let my chaotic mind go.
STEP 4: I meditate on any of the mandalas, infinite arrays or fractal patterns that arise. Am completely without thought. Enjoying the timeless ride.
STEP 5: I begin breathing shallowly when I feel itís time, remembering not to strain. I take increasingly deeper breaths as I ease out of this state. Insights about my life will begin to flood my mind. I prefer to have a notepad handy and jot them down for a few minutes. No more than half a page worth of notes though as the tangents my mind can take will be overwhelming and distracting. This is my opportunity to bridge the gap between the conscious self and (what Iíve come to describe) the ďhigher selfĒ. I try to be as specific about my thoughts/findings as possible in this state, because the following day these comments may not make much sense. Theyíve never steered me wrong in life, but sometimes the fog my mind is in causes key words to be left out so the ultimate message is tough to decipher the next day. I try to act on them in the next 48 hours if I can.
Note: Sometimes my writing style is such that it appears Iím giving advice to a second person. Even though I know this person is me, the state of mind Iím in while sharing the insight is sometimes so foreign, that Iíll write something like ďYou need to do x, y, zĒ or ďa, b, c is a fear of yours. Deal with it.Ē
STEP 6: Think about ďdoing my bestĒ as I return to complete sobriety. Does that match up with what my Ideal would approve of? What does ďdoing my bestĒ entail? Am I up to it? I write any more thoughts.
STEP 7: Take many deep, rapid cleansing breaths. Return to Step 1.
Iíve found that the use of both nitrous oxide and cannabis reflects metaphors for my life. The depth of my safe consciousness expansion is based on my ability to face fears. The more fears Iím willing to own up to, the greater the consciousness expansion. A recent fear that I had to face was my own sanity. But remembering that my views of the world are consistent with concepts that have withstood the test of time (Einsteinís and Buddhist philosophies), this particular fear can be put aside as my consciousness is allowed to expand. For instance, there are plenty of quotes from Einstein that allow the un-reality experienced under nitrous oxide to conform to what humans observe in the quantum field. One particularly applicable quote that I focus on and ponder a bit to get my mind pointed in the ďrightĒ direction is thisÖ
'A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ĎUniverseí, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.' ~Albert Einstein
:::The ďrightĒ state of mind is important:::
Before I learned to get my mind and emotions pointed in the right (courageous, benevolent, grateful) direction, some of my nitrous oxide experiences were unpleasant. Once I was so overcome with the great responsibilities I was putting on myself, I feared failure and mental collapse due to conflict between what I wanted to do, what I should do, and what I felt like I could do. Each nitrous cartridge caused me to hallucinate different kinds of frightening images.
Once there were awful troll-like things trying to reach out and grab me (which were just an enhancement of shadows being reflected around my bedroom from a flickering candle). There have been menacing figures in cloaks standing in the corner of the room. My rational mind is coherent enough to say ďyouíre high on nitrous oxide. This is a hallucination. Ignore it.Ē However the discomfort remains very real. Today Iím convinced each of these malevolent hallucinations was a visual metaphor for a personal demon I was unwilling to face. When I feel my mind and body are genuinely relaxed, and I honestly feel Iím mostly doing my best to leave things better than I found them, the experience is almost always spiritual and insightful. If I find my mind wandering into an uncomfortable area, the experience is less than enjoyable.
:::Nitrous hallucinations as valuable metaphors:::
Each hallucination has a meaning, I believe. This wasnít apparent when I first started using nitrous oxide. However the patterns of hallucinations seemed to repeat. This is similar to analyzing themes in dreams, I suppose. The fractals often would morph into images of my own face. The expression on this hallucinated face is exactly how I felt at the moment about myself and in life, whether Iím initially willing to admit it or not. Sometimes the face exudes confidence and tranquility. Sometimes it has a strained look. There have been times this hallucination of myself was laughing. Sometimes it was crying. Iíve found that as quickly as I can recognize why Iím having the feeling and see the remedy, the visualization changes as if itís responding to a new (future) reality Iíve created.
For instance, while using nitrous oxide alone one night, I once hallucinated seeing myself sitting on a couch, with my face in my hands, crying uncontrollably. I quickly pieced together that I had a fear of growing old and feeling alone. I saw the resolution just as quickly - if I continued to help others (friends, family members, other like-minded folks that I have yet to meet), more friends and love would naturally enter my life in a supportive and abundant way that I need, indefinitely. At this point, the hallucination shifted into one of me smiling and laughing and relishing life. (To date, this vision is manifesting itself into a reality.)
Iíve also hallucinated images of friends and family acting out how I feel about them at the moment. As I deliberately change my attitude and perspective of each person, the hallucination changes. If someone in my life is conflicted or full of anger (in my mind), the hallucination of that person may have a pained look on his face. If a family member needs sympathy and love (again, this is just from my perspective), I might see this person withdrawn in a corner of my room looking sad and despondent. If a shy, awkward friend appears to want guidance or companionship, I might see that person playfully peaking around the corner. If I search within myself for how to respond to each person, the hallucination will change accordingly. This gets easier with practice, and strangely doesnít feel weird at the time.
The examples above are the result of my mind wandering unnecessarily while my eyes are open and looking around the room. If I can let go of my chaotic mind, drop these egoic attachments, and focus on an ideal instead (as described above), all sorts of wonderful fractals and mandalas manifest themselves and reflect an ideal state of mind (clarity). It has taken some effort to consistently reproduce this ideal state, but is well worth the experience.
:::Amnesia - Nitrous Oxideís Cruel Irony:::
Cannabis and nitrous oxide can induce deep personal insight and consciousness expansion. The downside is that after Iíve exhaled a lungful of nitrous oxide and taken a few deep breaths, I can sometimes barely recall the first detail of the experience. I might recall something wonderful and potentially life changing was just revealed to me, but the immediate amnesia wipes it out for the moment. Iíve since become convinced this experience is still stored in my brain, but just isnít easily accessible during ordinary states of reality. Ironically for me, the magnitude of the revelation is directly related to the chance Iíll forget most of the important parts.
During a group cannabis and nitrous gathering a while back, deep personal insight was followed by directly experiencing the Cosmos (or what that might feel like) and even deeper personal insight. As I returned to reality, it was as if many more synapses and neurons were firing so that each aspect of my life was quickly resolved. The essence of spirituality, deep meditation, karma, synchronicities, life-force energy, and quantum mechanics had seemingly been revealed to me in a simplistic but confidently allowable way. This was a big deal considering I had been a devout atheist all of my adult life.
Then as my memory faded, the most intense part of the consciousness expansion experience was a white light receding from me until it was just a point like a distant star at night. In a panic, as I realized all these life-changing insights were fading quickly into oblivion, I left myself enough breadcrumbs to rediscover this experience more naturally. Interestingly, the only clues I was able to remember for myself were 1) to believe that Illumination had occurred and is possible without nitrous oxide, 2) always do my best and strive to understand what ďdoing my bestĒ means, 3) keep moving forward in life, 4) practice disciplined meditation with and without cannabis, and 5) study spiritual texts objectively.
Itís taken me almost two years to piece together most of the insights I gained in those few seconds, and Iím grateful that Iíve remained so diligent in tracking them down. Generous, abundant, and surprisingly unexplainable events continue to occur routinely in my life now. Many people call them synchronicities. Itís like the universe is conspiring to make me succeed in every endeavor Iíve chosen since then. While an insightful nitrous oxide experience may be initially lost, persistent self-reflection afterwards can reveal those same insights with time and effort. In my experience, itís totally worth it.
:::After the initial, personal experimentation phase with nitrous has run its course:::
Today, I use nitrous oxide once every 1 to 3 months. That seems to be spread out enough that Iím confident there are no accumulated negative consequences to my health. Perhaps I could use more without damage to my physical health, but at this point it doesnít matter. This usage is frequent enough, my mental cobwebs can be cleared out, and the next steps I should choose in life are apparent. Similar effects of personal insight can be realized with disciplined weekly cannabis use. Nitrous oxide is quick and intense, but eventually feels somewhat ďunnaturalĒ if I do too much in an evening. There are undeniable benefits to be gained, but I also feel there are limits to what nitrous oxide can offer. Itís a quick and easy way to experience consciousness expansion as well as your fears and responsibilities. These effects are similar to other psychedelic experiences. But there is a bit of distortion that tends to accompany nitrous with extended use in one session. ĎSlow and steadyí wins the race, I hear.
:::One more note - Group Settings and (possible) Etiquette:::
The effects are substantially different when a group of people are inhaling nitrous oxide at the same time. If Iím comfortable in my relationships with the people Iím with at the time, personal insights tend to deal more with what my ďpurposeĒ is with each person, how I have related well socially over time, how I should relate in the future, etc. This only works if everyone is comfortable using the nitrous oxide in a somewhat meditative way. There should be no judgment of each other at any time, otherwise youíll probably be too self-conscious to ďlet goĒ and float downstream. My personal preference for group settings is to either have relaxing, instrumental music playing in the background (that everyone comfortably discussed ahead of time) or to have something on television thatís equally soothing (for example, ďSunrise EarthĒ works well since there is no talking and involves relaxing images of natural settings. Group cannabis and nitrous oxide use could be compared to a yoga class in a way... even though there are others in the Ďclassí with you, it is a completely individual experience.
I have found that talking about personal experiences afterwards is enormously helpful. This sharing of information can be beneficial for several reasons. Mostly because Iíll find myself and others opening up about personal thoughts, ideas, feelings, etc. Probably something people should do more of anyway. Talking should be done after everyone has ďcome downĒ though. This ensures a more genuine discussion. There have been numerous times Iíve felt compelled to talk before my mind and body were completely back on earth... only to realize I have no idea why Iím speaking, how long itís been going on, if it seemed coherent to me and others, or if Iím responding to someone else or just babbling unprovoked. Feel free to talk when everyone has come back down. A few deep, cleansing breaths should be enough.
:::the psychedelic experience, and beyond... :::
Ultimately, the vast majority of the lessons Iíve had combining cannabis and nitrous oxide can be easily applied to ordinary states of (sober) reality. Itís like cannabis provides the training wheels for personal insight and meditation. And nitrous oxide is a mental accelerator or booster that blasts me off into whatever direction my mind is pointed at the time. With enough disciplined use, what I can learn about my ideas, motivations, and source of emotions can be applied to normal waking reality. The results are easily reproducible, and are quite enjoyable to experience. These days itís much easier for me to pay attention to my emotions rising and falling. Iím able to understand where these emotions are coming from much more quickly too. Two years ago my mind was full of constant chatter. It seems that knowing myself was the first step to living life happily. Itís somewhat unexpected that I had to experience this through nitrous oxide and cannabis use, when the value of being true to oneself has been consistently cherished and explained in thousands of yearsí worth of spiritual texts. Apparently none of my findings were a secret.
:::Parting thoughts on nitrous oxide:::
Knowing I can start breathing pure air and end the nitrous oxide experience at any time gives me enough confidence and control to dip my toe into the psychedelic world, without committing to a multi-hour mushroom/psilocybin experience. Nitrous has shown me the next steps in life, let me face personal shortcomings and have the courage to ask ďwhy?Ē while appropriately expecting quick answers. The benefit of nitrous and cannabis is that answers to these deep and probing questions become readily available. Itís difficult to lie to myself in these altered states of reality. If I'm dishonest about anything, Iíll feel pain, grief, conflict, etc almost immediately. Iíll know when I'm on the wrong path (and the right one).
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