Citation: Vipassana Meditator. "Beyond the Void: An Experience with DMT (exp80880)". Erowid.org. Aug 12, 2010. erowid.org/exp/80880
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I am always interested to know of a user’s background before reading about his experience so I shall briefly give mine. I am educated to postgraduate level and have a higher professional background. Around three years ago, I began to study Buddhism and went on a number of retreats, including a Vipassana retreat. The insight from Vipassana showed me that the division between what is a drug and what is not is arbitrary and flawed; since all experience has the capacity to lead to attachment and/or aversion and since all experience is generally perceived as “pleasant” or “unpleasant” due to a physical sensation coupled with a change in neurotransmitter levels, all experience in the physical world has a similar action to drugs. It would be completely wrong to say that Vipassana led me to drugs; rather, it showed me that my prior reasons for not experimenting with drugs were unfounded. One reason was fear of my own reactions – what I realised, following Vipassana, was that I need not fear any “difficult” drug experiences as I would be able to observe the drug’s effects rather than acting out the script that the drug has written. The other reason was that drugs are “not real” – a drug experience may not be real, in that it is transient and impermanent but it is no less real than any other daily experience.
Up to my completion of this Vipassana retreat, the drugs I took were limited to alcohol and tobacco. I had tried hashish a few times and cocaine once and was quite unimpressed with both so felt no desire to experiment with them further; put another way, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. Shortly after completing Vipassana I had my first experience with MDMA and since then I have also experimented with MDEA, Marijuana, LSD, Amphetamine, Nitrous Oxide, Methamphetamine, Ketamine, Psilocybin Mushrooms and Salvia Divinorum (and combinations of all of the above). Of all of these drugs, I take MDMA and LSD most frequently (at least two or three times per month and often more regularly). I occasionally smoke tobacco, I take caffeinated drinks in moderation and rarely drink alcohol.
In light of the foregoing, I think it fair to say I have had broad experience with recreational drugs. I have never had a “bad trip” even when I have taken doses of LSD that could be described as “heroic”. With all this, I think the most important thing I can say about DMT is that nothing, no amount or combination of drugs and no amount of description could ever have prepared me for how completely mind-blowing this substance is. DMT divides the brain by zero, which is impossible (except with DMT).
I prepared a bed of ashes in a bong by burning some tobacco; I then compacted the ashes and put a small amount of pure DMT salt on top of the ashes. I held the flame to the salt as I inhaled, making sure all of it vaporised. I held in the smoke for around 10 seconds. There was some smoke left in the bong but, as I breathed out the smoke I had inhaled, the effects of the drug had already overwhelmed my ability to move (I expected this) so I put down the bong. I sat back in the couch as there was nothing else I could do.
Physically, I was very aware of my body (it felt enormous) but also it seemed as if my sense of touch extended into my surroundings (my study). Everything shook and shimmered and suddenly the visuals became something that can only be described as hi-tech. Colours shone with a brilliance I had never seen. Hi-tech shapes, that suggested intelligent design, flowed over the view of everything, but unlike the phosphenes I see with LSD (which seem as if they are coming from behind my eye), this imagery was in front of me – I was witnessing something external to my body rather than through a filter. As I turned my head, all images from different points of view combined, past, present and future (maybe 10 seconds each way) by layer upon layer of translucent images, pulsating and animated with an intelligence that defies verbal description. Even though all colours were amplified and vivid, I noticed that there was a great deal of tranluscent gold and neon green colour in all of my field of vision but again, this seemed like something I was looking at rather than tinted glasses over my eyes.
I felt a presence, very powerful. Some have described this presence as their former self (as in from the prior moment) and that perceiving the former self as another being (which, in a way it is) is the explanation for this presence. I did feel this “echo” of myself (the self, or what we think of it as being, is of course transient and impermanent) but there was definitely something else. It seemed as if hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of beings, were present, all in a hive of communication. I was aware of them but I cannot say for certain whether they were aware of me.
The intensity of everything was, in a sense, terrifying. I wasn’t really scared of anything, if only because I knew that nobody has ever (at least according to any reliable source) died from smoking DMT. If I didn’t know this, I might have been worried but since I am always well informed of the medical effects of a drug before taking it, I am never worried. The amount of information storming by brain and the processes working were incredible and, if I were a computer, I would be afraid that my CPU would be fried as a result of overclocking. So much was happening that I might never be able to make sense of. My initial, split-second neurotic reaction to the intensity was a predictable ‘I’m never doing this again’, however, I knew that such thoughts always pass if I allow them to just pass, rather than clinging to them or trying to push it away; the thought arises by itself, without my input – it will leave of its own volition! I find this easy to do because I meditate. Furthermore, I recalled that my first reaction to Salvia was similar and passed, giving way to something amazing and enlightening; I saw no reason for that not to happen with DMT.
Audio was interesting. The music that was playing was both amplified and quieter all at once – which, again, is impossible (except with DMT). There was a slight drop in pitch and tempo, oscillating up sometimes. Everything echoed as if the same sound came from different sources, near and far. Other sounds were also heard; I still have no idea what they were but I certainly did not find them objectionable. The visions I had pulsated in time to the music that was playing, although I only realised that this had happened on retrospect.
Taste and smell were best not paid too much attention, if only because of the disgusting, caustic taste of the DMT smoke and its matching smell. So much is happening that it would be great shame to allow it to detract from the experience. Like the slight nausea that can follow ingestion of psilocybin mushrooms, it really is a very small price to pay and I am grateful for the experience rather than whining like a small child over a mildly uncomfortable side effect. A few times I did cough, not repeatedly but one loud cough at a time – this acted as a release of some built-up energy (not so much release of tension but more release of an arrow from a bow, clearly directed) but also amplified the experience and it felt as if my lungs shook the entire universe, a most powerful sensation.
As for breathing generally, I took deliberately deep breaths, if only to make sure I was breathing. I realised that this was unnecessary and of course that nobody has ever choked or died from asphyxiation as a result of smoking DMT. Perhaps the fact that the past, present and future are blended together with DMT accounts for this odd sensation of not being sure of whether or not I am breathing. It is as if I become aware of my immediately prior exhalation as I am inhaling. I think it was this, rather than the layered images, that made me realise that my sense of time was greatly stretched. I am aware of the passage of time (perhaps I might not be so aware of it without music as a reference) but time definitely becomes more flexible.
The description of the experience with reference to different senses cannot account for the intense synaesthesia. I can say that I tasted music, saw colours etc., all of which is true but really is beyond description. During the peak effects (which lasted all of 5-10 minutes but felt like forever and never), all I could do is lie back into my chair and let things happen. I did not try to move much and was probably not capable of doing so.
Once the peak visual effects subsided a little, I laughed inwardly for a minute before deciding to stand up and walk around. Everything shimmered and radiated and it was as if I were moving through a gaseous formation such as a pulsar, through a galaxy. I turned around and looked at my (ugly) floral pattern upholstered couch and the flowers were literally moving from one cushion to the other and onto the floor and into the air. I could “control” the flow of these flowers by moving my hands. Music at this point became exceptionally pleasant, more pleasant even than music on MDMA or LSD or both. I did what I usually like to do when under the influence of psychedelics and stare at myself in the mirror. I had a divine glow but what I find most remarkable was that I didn’t look like I was on drugs. With all other drugs, I will have a certain look that those who do not use drugs might not detect but I will notice. With DMT, this was not the case.
As visuals died away, a strong euphoria lingered; I shivered and clung to the wall, my body pulsating with bliss. There was almost a sense of relief or perhaps as if I had been awarded a prize, as if I had come through a major trial successfully. Over the next 20 minutes or so the effects of the drug wore off, leaving a wonderful afterglow. I found it difficult however to make sense of what had happened and so decided after about half an hour to have another, milder trip. This trip is not worthy of too much mention as, while intense in comparison with other substances, was nothing like the first trip and no use in integrating the first.
I waited an hour and had another full dose. The effects were similar to the first trip except more intense and once the peak visual effects eased, it gave way to what I must say is the purest euphoria I have ever experienced. It was this trip that enabled me to make sense of the first and allowed me to explain it here.
Later on in the day a friend called around. He was keen to try DMT but wanted to watch how I behaved on it first. I was also interested to see would the trip be different with somebody present; I can’t say that it was a whole lot. His face looked very warm and friendly (he is very warm and friendly, so that was hardly surprising) but he didn’t fit in the “alternative” universe I was seeing. I had more of a sensation of flying this time than the previous three times – unfortunately for readers, whatever I was flying through really defies description, except I felt a very strong presence of intelligence and numerous beings of unknown nature. As I was coming to, my friend took a dose. He seemed very shocked by the effects of the drug and as he came to said that he probably would not take DMT again, not because it was “bad” but simply “too weird”. Interestingly, he found the music playing (and the few words I spoke, nothing significant) very “raw” and almost grating. Like myself, he practises Vipassana and said that, had he not been on a Vipassana retreat, the experience would have been disastrous and would have scarred him. Predictably, fifteen minutes after saying this, he said he would definitely have to try DMT again. He noted that he felt a calm like he had never felt; I asked him if this was like a “system reset” (or perhaps a “clean installation” of a new operating system) and he agreed. I expected that this might be his reaction – similar to the reaction of most people I have seen taking Salvia for the first time: terror or near terror followed by great joy and a desire to repeat the experience.
The next day, in the evening, I took another dose. I asked my wife (who was not taking DMT or any substances) if she would try to interact with me or at least observe while I was under the influence. I wasn’t really able to communicate with her but what I noticed is that the “beings” I encountered had similar features to her. By features I do not necessarily mean physical features – all I noted was that she “belonged” among the beings whose presence I felt. The beings were aware of her and it was as if a part of her that is beep in her subconsciousness was fully aware of them also (on that note, this was the first time the unknown beings seemed aware of me and took notice).
I have yet to establish the full significance of this; I might be able to once she takes DMT herself but she is not yet ready for it. This does corroborate the aforementioned view that one of the explanations for the sensation of a strong presence during a DMT trip is an echo of the self, perceived as a separate entity. As already stated, I do not accept this as a complete explanation and I do hold to the view that the beings I encountered were more than simply “me” in the past, present and future. Given what I noticed of my wife “communicating” with the DMT-universe beings, it strengthens my view that our intelligence, awareness and power as human beings is in several parts and none of the parts are aware of the other. DMT has opened up a part that what I typically see as “me” was unaware of and it likewise of “me”. It would seem that the goal of a meditator and/or psychonaut should be to integrate these several parts so that there is continuity of awareness and intelligence.
The most significant integrable effect of the trip was that it has made me quite unafraid of dying. I don’t want to die but I feel as if I can make good choices after my death; I cannot fully explain in words why I feel this. DMT strongly reinforced the truth that there is nothing to fear except fear itself.
There is a concept in Buddhism (but by no means unique to that tradition) called shunyata, that is best translated as “emptiness”. Meditation (especially Vipassana in a Theravadin tradition) and drugs other than DMT can take me into shunyata, into the void as it were. LSD can certainly help me to empty my mind, to the point where I have no thought, only awareness. Ketamine, Nitrous Oxide and especially Salvia take me much further into the void, to the vanishing point of the universe where everything is perceived as empty and that the universe is the modulation of a single oscillating wave that has no permanent or physical reality.
Tibetan Buddhists, however, seem to suggest that, while a student must attain this understanding of shunyata, that there is something “beyond” shunyata. I cannot claim to have an understanding of what Tibetans mean by this (if this is what they are saying at all) but I can say that with DMT, I am taken beyond the void, beyond emptiness. I am always one to spot puns but, while no more than a coincidence, the sound of the letters “D-M-T” seems so apt. Vipassana, LSD and dissociatives emptied my mind; DMT has de-emptied it. By this I do not mean it has undone anything. It seems that when I reach “the void”, I come to the vanishing point of the universe. DMT allows me to push beyond this vanishing point allowing me to see another universe that actually co-exists with this one and is right under our noses. I had always thought that I might leave the material world behind to pursue a monastic life (or at least go and live in the Himalayas for a few years); having had DMT, I no longer consider this necessary as there is nothing to leave and wherever I go in this world would not take me further to this new truth I have seen, which is right under our noses, wherever we go. Of all the effects of DMT, this is so far the most liberating.
Subtle “flashbacks” have followed; I have experienced several in the past few days (not at all difficult, unpleasant, distracting or overwhelming), which for me have helped significantly with integration.
I want to take the experience of DMT further by undergoing a full ayahuasca ritual, as I am certain that this will make the experience easier to integrate. The reason DMT is so difficult to make sense of is of course because it hits you out of nowhere and vanishes just as quickly. Until such time as I have the opportunity to take part in an ayahuasca ritual, I intend to slowly experiment with combining DMT with other substances, especially LSD and MDMA and perhaps in time with dissociatives. I expect that I will take a long time to do this as it is certainly not something to be rushed into.
DMT is, by a long shot, the most powerful drug (at least, as far as the mind is concerned) I have tried. Indeed, the power of all other drugs combined is completely insignificant compared to the power of DMT. Though it is true that a difficult trip on DMT might be “easier” than, say LSD in that if something becomes uncomfortable, I need only endure it for five minutes as opposed to a gruelling eight hours.
I shall close by saluting the first shamans who discovered DMT-containing plants and dared to experiment and voyage into the unknown. Their bravery, or recklessness, or both, has been for the benefit of mankind.
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