My First Psychedelic Experience…
Updated: Feb 19
So I’ve had new Neural pathways blown into my brain - an experience that some may criticize, others may think me crazy and hopefully others may feel a bit inquisitive. I am choosing to share this with the hope that most will drop their preconceived notions and just read with curiosity sans judgement.
But first, let me take you on my psychedelic journey…
I came to Tulum knowing it was a place of many healing and hippy dippy yoga like modalities. Some of you know I say yes to a lot of different things, and yet I had no idea how this would unfold over a two month stay. My curiosity in psychedelics started many years ago and was piqued by a conversation I had with a young man in Cuenca, Ecuador in 2019.
John is a US citizen, had graduated and was taking a gap year before heading to med school when I met him; he had found a position at John Hopkins University in the Psychedelic Research Lab. He and a friend were exploring Ecuador just as my daughter and I were, and we found ourselves hiking up the side of a rain swept mountain. I had many conversations with him unpacking the meaning of life and how psychedelics seem to unlock the parts of the brain that make these experiences, well, more expansive…
I grew up in rural Indiana in an era where the war on drugs was harsh and intense. I remember seeing commercials showing an egg frying in a pan with a somber bass voice claiming, “This is your brain on drugs.” I now understand the fear based impact those messages had on my young impressionable mind, and to this day still feel the tendrils when I think about regulated or illegal drugs.
In my travels I have attempted to do ayahuasca (plant based medicine) 3 different times, but each time the session fell through. The last was scheduled when I was in Colombia in March of 2020; I had to leave two days before the session due to fears that the borders would close because of covid. The time wasn’t right, and as I look back - I wasn’t ready…
The Discovery of Bufo…
I found myself listening to a sales pitch on fractional condo sales one warm afternoon in Tulum, the result of a synchronistic set of circumstances that came about because I rented a bicycle. Within minutes of meeting the sales guy, we discovered common language around the need for compassion, empathy and the love that connects us all. A fellow Mexican Buddhist. It was an instant knowing….
He quickly intuited I wasn’t interested in buying a condo, and our conversation danced around topics that linked and interested both of us. As the hour drew to a close, I asked him what I should know about Tulum. He said - straight up - I needed to do Bufo.
I had no idea what he was talking about. He went on to explain that he and his wife had tried this “medicine” and found it to be incredibly powerful. He then went to his car and brought back a business card. I had passed by that hotel a dozen times and never knew what lay behind the coffee bar…
Bufo Alvarius is extricated from a toad and the venom is smoked in a ceremony that is considered by some as the world’s most powerful psychoactive substance. The venom contains a fast acting psychedelic 5-MeO-DMT and there are claims of instantaneous healing of mental health issues….
So I did it. Holy Shit…
I spent days prior to the Bufo session eating a clean vegetarian, no processed food diet, meditated with more focus, practiced yoga, consumed no alcohol and set my intentions in preparation. I had talked to a couple of people who had smoked Bufo, and both had a similar story and language in that it was “a powerful experience and that the intention you set is important.” Oh, and surrender and trust were key. Harbinger….
I showed up 10 minutes before my designated time, paid for my session and was told the guides would come to get me when the teepee was open. I wasn’t frightened, but clearly uncertain as to what to expect as I had never done psychedelics before…
I saw a good lookin’ Latino emerge from the teepee at the back of the property built in the tamed jungle and I wondered if he was Juan, the man that was to be one of my guides. While waiting I struck up a conversation with a young man from Cancun who said he had too much fear in his life to try Bufo and was trying to untangle the fear himself. Juan then walked up and looked in my eyes and gave me the most warming heart to heart hug I have had in years. He then gave my new friend the exact same heartfelt hug. I asked him if he was my Bufo guide, and it was apparent by his reaction that he didn’t know I was his next guest…
He said it would be a few more moments as there was a person inside finishing up their experience. 10 minutes later he walked over with a clay chalice billowing copal smoke, asked if I was ready and hugged me again. I took a big breath and said yes. We got to the entrance of the teepee and he directed me to close my eyes, open my heart and lift my arms. He then smudged my entire body with copal smoke; I removed my sandals and entered the teepee.
A pair of fuzzy pink slippers were at the entrance, and I met the owner - Tiffany - my other guide. She reached out and also gave me a heartfelt hug and thanked me for coming to partake in this powerful medicine.
I was directed to sit down in the middle of the teepee on a platform of firm 2” foam covered in animal skin and pillows. This was a solo session and I had two guides to help shepherd and support me during the experience while balancing the male-female energy.
The three of us formed a tight circle and Juan instructed me on the breathing sequence to prepare the lungs for the medicine. He showed me the pipe and how I would inhale the medicine for 10 long, slow counts and then to hold my breath for as long as I could as I lay down.
They talked about the importance of my intention and reminded me that I was safe, that they were there to help me through the experience and to trust the process. We practiced the breathing series and then handed the pipe. I was asked to place it against my chest and set an intention for the medicine.
I had been thinking about what it was that I wanted as a result of his experience for days prior, and had 3 intentions that I pulled into my heart:
A clearer understanding of how I can best serve for the highest good during this next chapter of my life
To open my heart
To deepen my spiritual walk
They asked if I was ready.
We then read a beautiful statement together acknowledging the life affirming power of the medicine. I took deep long breaths, short strong breaths, a long inhale to a count of 10, held my breath, laid back and then….
Colors started swirling and the teepee became animated and pixelated in layers and layers of neon pink. I remember thinking, “Holy Shit!! This is really wild!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
I became aware of the ethereal music playing in the background ebbing and flowing as it swirled around my ears.
And then my heart started to race.
I saw shadows start to move quickly around me, and I was conscious that they were working hard to keep me safe. I could feel my lips draw to a slight smile, and I felt like they could hear me thanking them.
On my right the shadow played the singing bowl. On my left the shadow blew copal on and around me and then quickly moved to the opposite side of the teepee. I was conscious that it was my guide gliding across the teepee, but I couldn’t see “him,” I could only “see” his shadow. I could not distinguish their human forms… I then heard the sound of the didgeridoo waft over me.
The shapes, sounds and the colors were moving fluidly all around me.
I felt my racing heart and was aware that I needed to let go and to trust that I was safe; that they had me. That the universe had me…
I wasn’t scared and was aware that they were there protecting me, and in my mind I kept repeating the words “thank you.”
My heart softened and stopped racing. The wooden poles of the teepee interlocked up to the sky and all the details had my full attention. Juan took my hand and thanked me for trusting them.
I thanked them for working so hard to keep me safe, and then I started sobbing. Both of them instantly kneeled down next to me and covered me with a warm embrace and thanked me for trusting them. This embrace was comforting, heartfelt and beautiful; I sobbed harder. The tears weren’t from fear or sadness, but of raw emotion.
I was told to stay and just enjoy the medicine until I felt like it was time to leave; they would join me outside.
I laid there and felt the effects of the drug rise up again. I began to feel some anxiety as I was alone this time; I took a life affirming deep breath and knew I was safe - and reminded my ego to let it be.
I met them outside and they told me the next 3 days would be important as the medicine would continue processing. They said that being quiet while in nature as often as possible was very important, and to email/call/text with any questions or concerns that may arise. I was told that the medicine may come back in my sleep or during a deep meditation and to try and just enjoy the effects. And to be kind to myself as all of my senses would be heightened.
They told me I had been in the psychedelic state for over 30 minutes though it felt like only minutes. The whole experience lasted an hour….
I walked my bike home. S l o w l y.
I felt the urge to get to the water that afternoon, and on the slow bike ride to the beach that I’ve done virtually every day since I arrived, I saw a sign I had never noticed before. It was a big yellow diamond street sign that said “Forgive Yourself.”
Day 1 Post Bufo:
I woke up before 6am and found an instrumental meditation that assists in putting one in a theta brain wave state. When the singing bowls started to play, it was a reminder to turn my inner gaze to my third eye chakra. It’s as if my mind popped open again and I dropped in deep. Trippy, but not scary. One of my intentions was to expand my spiritual practice and clearly my meditation practice was deeper.
Throughout the day I listened and watched various videos they had sent helping to integrate the experience. Later I learned that my roommates were checking on me as I was definitely under some spell!
And in talking to my roommate that evening about the experience, I described how it felt like my heart was about to beat out of my chest, and that it seemed like the shadows around me were working to keep me safe and to calm me down. I told her how they asked me to bring the medicine to my heart and set my intentions. I realized that one of my intentions was to have a more open heart. Holy shit - my heart about pounded out of my chest opening... As I processed the experience I realized that the guides may not only have been trying to make me feel safe, but were there to help elevate my heart opening even more…….
And I had to laugh as I recalled the psychedelic teepee. It was a swirling orgy of pink color and shapes - the color of femininity and love.The teepee was pink… rolling in pink.
Day 2 Post Bufo:
My meditation again was deeper. Somatic. I continue to be able to drop my body into a state that feels similar to when I was on the trip. Complete release. I can feel my brain state alter, and this may sound weird, but I know when I drop into theta. When I turn my internal gaze up into that 3rd eye, the anje chakra, the portal opens and I drop deeper into nothingness/peace. I am more aware and can hear the left brain chatter, my ego talking about the experience… When I’m able to breathe into the chatter - let it subside, let my body soften I can then drop in again. It comes in waves…. I’m elevated to a deeper state, my left brain kicks back on and I drop out; I relax, let go, lift and repeat….
And I realized as I did my morning journaling that the bufo guides were shadows because I had been taken to a different realm; the medicine had literally opened my brain into a new way of being. I was present and clear on where I was and yet it was as if I was seeing things from “the inside out.” I could not discern their human forms, but merely their shadows even though the psychedelic teepee I was looking up at was as clear as the ceiling I’m looking at now. Surreal…
Day 3 Post Bufo:
While journaling I remembered that Tiffany in the final embrace had said, “Happy Birthday” indicating that I had just been born into a new way of being in this world. Juan had looked me in the eye and said, “Life is beautiful” and the tears started again as I had watched that movie the night before. My roommate had suggested it as it was one of her top 5 movies. The movie started with silly slapstick humor, a man falls in love, a woman falls toward him and they start a family - at the beginning of WWII in Italy. The tall, lanky man was Jewish. The movie then turns serious punctuated by gallows humor. It doesn’t end well. Or does it…?
The afternoon brought about an experience I didn’t see coming. We were told about a breathwork practice that others had found pretty amazing, so my two housemates and I headed to the beach. We found the beautiful resort full of Mayan statues and hand painted signs with uplifting messages. The yoga shala was covered by a thatch roof protecting us from the midday sun and close enough to the beach to hear the waves crashing in the distance.
Our instructor, Sabine, told us she had been a mid level manager for Bookings.com working in Amsterdam when she first encountered Clarity Breathwork. She claims it was instrumental in helping her exit the corporate rat race and find something she believed in.
She started the practice with a simple explanation and example of how we were going to breathe - for up to an hour! We started with some gentle standing and flowing movements and then transitioned to our backs on our mats; we started the heart (of course it was) focused breathing with a beautiful soundtrack in the background punctuated by the crashing waves. Fairly quickly the space around my ears and side of the hands that were touching the ground started to tingle intensely. It wasn’t painful or uncomfortable, and I was aware of the sensations as if they were therapeutic. She encouraged us to let go and go deeper, and tears whelmed in my eyes.
And then my upper body started to shake and sobbing came from deep inside. It wasn’t fear or sadness but it felt like a release of years of pent up stuff…. She came to my side and placed her hands on my heart and head helping to ease and deepen each breath. I was aware that I was starting to feel like I was tripping again (the result of Bufo) and when she came around with the sound of the gong, I felt my eyes start to flutter and was again pulled deeper into the edge of another unique psychedelic trip…
She again came to my side and helped to calm my body and then it felt as if my arms and root chakra had a cord tethering me to the earth, gently pulling me into Pachamama. I wasn’t frightened and was aware that this was a somatic experience that I could break free from at any time. I felt the desire to just let the experience unfold, “watch” and enjoy…
I texted John (Psychedelic Researcher) after the session as I was surprised that I was kicked into another psychedelic experience just from the breathwork. He assured me that it was normal, not to be alarmed and that nothing harmful was happening. He affirmed that I was merely lighting up new Neural pathways in my brain and to enjoy the process of integration which may go on for days, weeks or even years.
So it feels as if I have had an energetic heart transplant, my meditation and intuition is heightened and what is left to unfold from the intentions I set is a better understanding of this next chapter of my life.
One thing I know for sure. I will continue saying YES to life….
Si no ahora, cuando? (If not now, when?)