phase 1, day 27 - breakthroughs

It's been a while since I updated this blog. I've been more or less sticking to the same regimen of around 15-20 drops of psilocybin every 2-3 days, with a few large doses of psilocybin and LSD last week as an experiment.

What's been happening to me lately is pretty incredible. My mind, which seems to have been suffering from a kind of arrested development for so long, seems to have "matured" profoundly quickly over the last few weeks.

In tandem with microdosing, I visited the countryside to see my immediate family. I've also been imbibing Buddhist philosophy such as books by the Dalai Lama as well as lectures by Buddhist monks on self-compassion and self-love. I noticed while visiting family that I had a great deal more patience and openness with them, whereas before I would be angry, snippy, impatient, and see them as alien to myself, not wanting to interact with much openness at all, for fear it would somehow "compromise" my ego (it's hard to describe the feeling).

The Buddhist influence

Several key doctrines of Buddhism strike me as profoundly true, and have been guiding my psilocybin-catalysed shift in awareness:

  • Emptiness: all things are "empty" of inherent meaning or flavour, and we push or pull towards or away from them according to our personalities, in my case an aversion from honesty and love, lust for hatred and anti-social attitudes. We assign "good" or bad" to things, arbitrarily, locking us in a specific version of the universe very much created by our individual conscious mind.
  • Interdependence of all things: Closely related to the doctrine of Emptiness, this idea describes how things do not inherently exist in and of themselves, but arise based on agents, causes, and thoughts from many other sources. This seems to instantly diffuse any negativity I might have towards a friend who betrayed me, or parents who failed me early in life. They are just as subject as I am to forces beyond our control. The only reasonable reaction towards those people, therefore, is compassion through the solidarity of our shared existential condition.
  • Cyclic suffering: Seeking pleasure or relief, as well as running from pain and hurt, are inherent aspects of our nature, which ultimately leave us perpetually unsatisfied. Driving my life with expectations of a "payoff", or seeking something external to "complete" me like a girlfriend or a prestigious career move are things that ultimately hold me back. To be completely self-sufficient, to fill my cup so that it overflows, and to enjoy the consequences of that overflowing in whichever aspect of my life it manifests seems to be the correct way forward. I don't "need" any of these things, because ultimately they will end and leave me unsatisfied -- rather, I should find satisfaction and acceptance with the way things currently are, and good things will follow without my being overly attached or needy.

Phenomenological shift

Upon returning to the city, I noticed many changes in the way I perceive the world. It began with a heightened sense of self-worth, which promised to defend me against any aggression from the outside world and from other people. "If they are cruel to me, that's their problem, because I have only good intentions towards people, I love myself, and aggression may indicate suffering in that person's own life, which warrants only compassion from me". There are three main changes I see in my worldview here.

  • Self-compassion creating a buffer between my self-image and the world.
  • Self-compassion leading to identification with others' suffering and compassion towards them, making me feel more "one" with others, and less like I am being crushed under the heel of society and other people.
  • Self-compassion and compassion towards others leading to a "guilt-free" mindset, leaving me with nothing unwholesome to hide, allowing more freedom and spontaneity in life.

Self-compassion is the key thing here. Without it, you cannot feel compassion for others. Having spent so long under the thumb of an enormously negative and depressive mindset, and now starting to emerge from it, I can see people from a new perspective. I notice suffering very frequently around me, and I empathise. I (think I) can read people much better, and notice their defensive attitudes as well as their desire to connect, and the inherent disjointedness of this way of living. All this leaves me purely with a desire to alleviate as much suffering as I possibly can.

The most holistic change I've noticed due to all the above factors is how clearly I can observe my thoughts as they constantly assign personalised value-judgments to all things. A movie poster. Somebody's choice of clothes. Comparing myself to others to bolster my own ego. Self-criticism. While juggling all of the bulletpointed insights above in a very fresh, lucid and open mind, I am able to simply let go of these value judgments. An incredible thing happens when you do this mindfully and consistently enough: you get small glimpses of seeing the world as it truly is, i.e. with zero projections of "anger", "hate", "lust", or whatever other emotion you're painting the world with. The world takes on a calm, neutral manner, where the balance of things becomes apparent, and you become personally separated from arbitrary opinions. Why on Earth do I feel so personally angered by a movie poster? Why do I have to feel sickened by somebody else's music tastes? I guess to make myself feel better about myself, but which ultimately leaves me disconnected from others. These things melt away with enough insight and mindfulness, and you begin to see things dispassionately. That movie poster is an interesting phenomenon of our times, it makes its target audience happy, and perhaps there are some not-so-wholesome values in the movie that perpetuate cyclic suffering in its viewers. That person's music taste makes them happy, which is nice to see; maybe it's not exactly what I would listen to when I'm alone, but I can enjoy their enjoyment of it, and therefore can share in the happiness it creates. Whatever happens, none of these things influences how I view myself in any significant way at all. The boundaries of my Self are delineated enough so as to resist being "absorbed" into erratic and extreme emotions and opinions about things totally unrelated to my life.

This is not necessarily automatic at all. While there have been refreshing alleviations of psychological distress, many of these changes have been brought about by a heightened awareness of my own thoughts as somewhat arbitrary manifestations, rather than as a world I'm forced to live within. I do still have a lot of unhealthy, angry and hateful thoughts, but the difference is I'm able to resist becoming totally absorbed in them and apply the insights from Buddhism and from self-observation that I've accumulated in order to see them in context, and as they really are. This is an almost constant process, which is tiring sometimes. The goal is to internalise them so that they become automatic.

Lifestyle changes

In terms of my lifestyle, I've noticed many changes. I am able to interact with people more openly, albeit still with anxiety at this point. My routine is less brittle, and I can enjoy spontaneous choices in, for example, what I choose to buy and make for my lunch. I cook more, eat better, and smoke less. I empathise with people and feel compassion for them. I respect myself more in general. I am able to fantasise more clearly about what it might feel like to connect deeply with a potential friend or significant other, and how lovely that must be.

After living so long with a reliance upon edgy and opinionated attitudes towards life, there is a feeling that I am losing my "edge". I told my therapist that I feel I'm becoming a "dad". By this I mean I feel very wholesome, stable, and balanced in my view of life. This is something that many people might see as flat or boring, but is something which I feel is lending me a greater depth and subtlety in my approach to life. It's a slightly awkward transition, to acclimatise to a more balanced and compassionate outlook, but I don't doubt it will yield sweeter and more satisfying fruit in the future. I can't bring myself to enjoy schadenfreude anymore, and I'm actually discovering that the more profound humour and pleasures in life are to be found in compassionately observing universal human nature and its many peaks and pitfalls, as well as the "way through" all of that into a more enlightened and truthful experience of reality.

How the microdosing helped

What heartens me about all this progress is that it wasn't overnight. Indeed, I'm still not quite "there" yet. It's been a month of microdosing, reading Buddhist philosophy, discussing things with my therapist, being mindful of my thoughts and behaviours, and interacting with the outside world that has led to a gradual but profound shift in consciousness. I'd like to imagine that the psilocybin has "lubricated" my path, which has still been filled with hard work and a lot of thought. The notion that microdosing has promoted neuroplasticity (while also enhancing mood) seems to be very true. It was not an on-and-off switch, but a catalyst that has given me greater strength to shift the very heavy boulders in my mind. I feel conscious of what's happening, I understand the logic and reasoning behind all of these very deliberate shifts in consciousness; it was not simply a "chemical" change alone, but it definitely let me build some positive momentum.

Moving forward

Seeing as this is uncharted territory (which I predict will become standard practice in a decade or two), I will maintain my microdosing regimen until I feel I'm not in such a volatile transitional period. I still have ups and downs, feel some backsliding sometimes, all of which are healthy challenges to reflexively supporting myself through bad times as well as good. Seeing as my mental "boulders" are so old, so sturdy, so stubborn, I predict I will be microdosing for a few more months to come while I stabilise myself. I am taking a month break from therapy very soon, which will be an important time to move out into the world and apply my new insights to more real-world encounters. Ultimately, I must do what feels right for me, personally, rather than abide by arbitrary recommendations suggested by others. Each person's journey is unique, and my microdosing regimen should probably continue into the near future.

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