I’ve always been fascinated by the counterculture movement of the 1960’s: Ram Dass, free love, hippies, festivals, and the mind-altering drugs that went with it all.
Hallucinogens - psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ayahuasca (see my previous blog about my experience with this), and peyote - have been used ceremonially in cultures throughout the world for around 7000 years. But it wasn't until the 60’s that they became popular and widely available for recreational use.
Today, there is a movement to bring them back for medicinal use, and as a mental health remedy, taken in controlled environments with a specially trained psychiatrist or psychologist.
My first experimentation with magic mushrooms began as a naive 22 year old on Thailand’s Haad Rin beach, at the end of an infamous Full Moon Party. The bar sold ‘Mushie Shakes’ and, after a long night of buckets (a strong mix of local alcohol and soft drinks) and dancing to techno music on the beach, my friends and I decided to share one of these psychedelic shakes and see what happened. Well, not much, I can tell you. Maybe it was the excess of cheap liquor I’d consumed beforehand, or perhaps the shake didn't actually have any psychedelic substances in it, but at least I could say I'd tried it.
It was a long time before my next experience with hallucinogens. This time, older and wiser, I was travelling in Mexico and a friend had told me about a little town, about a three hour bus ride from Oaxaca, which was famous for magic mushrooms. So, I jumped on a bus after Spanish school one Friday afternoon and made my way there. On the bus I met a
group of experienced trippers from Mexico City and a Russian girl, also travelling alone. This fellow solo traveller and I decided to share a room at La Cumbre (the place where you buy the mushrooms from) and meet our new friends in the morning, so they could take us to their ‘spot’ in the mountains, which had a stunning view to the Pacific Ocean. The town was super sleepy - there wasn’t even an ATM. The buildings are covered in psychedelic paintings and, rumour was, they gave mushrooms to kids as young as six. After a light dinner in the town (soup and hot chocolate) we tried to get some sleep, with nervous anticipation of what the following day would bring.
Our new friends met us at reception at 10am and helped us to purchase mushroom tea. This was basically a Coke bottle filled with dirty looking water and a few mushrooms in the bottom. We hiked about 20 minutes into the mountains until we found a cosy spot to drink. There were other groups of people doing the same thing as us, but we didn’t see them once we left the path. After about 30 minutes of nervous chatter the mushrooms started to kick in and the next four hours was just such a vibe. Even though I was in a place I hadn’t been before, with people I didn't know, it felt safe; the mushrooms always guide you and never let you do anything stupid. The surrounding bush and trees came alive and sparkled - when I inhaled the plants moved closer, and when I exhaled they moved back. I was at one with the nature around me. All of us had a slightly different experience. For a couple of us, we were in adventure mode, wanting to explore. And, for a couple of others, it meant a much needed emotional release, in the form of crying. As the buzz started to wear off, we made our way back to our new friends’ accommodation (because it was much nicer than ours) and ordered some food. It was the first thing we’d eaten all day, so we were starving. It was one of the best days of my life and I wish I'd taken more notice of how I felt in the days and weeks that followed.
I’ve got two types of friends in my circle: those who are super curious about expanding their mind - they read Michael Pollan, discuss wanting to microdose and use magic mushrooms to grow as a person; and friends who don’t like the sound of tripping at all. Having had only positive experiences with it, I welcome it becoming more mainstream and offering others the ability to see themself and the world in a different light.