The first thing to understand about how to have a good trip is that everyone is different. Every trip is different. So let’s narrow the focus a little. Psychedelics can help alleviate death anxiety. That’s the lens through which I, as a death doula, write this list of helpful hints for how to have a meaningful psychedelic trip.
If you’re concerned about contraindications or legality, perhaps meditation might be a better option. Regular meditation practice can also help people lose their fear of death and live with less anxiety.
But for those curious psychonauts with access to plant medicine (or their synthetic equivalent), many can enjoy a meaningful, safe experience. One that helps you work through what scares you. This leads to a more joyful death, and with integration, a more joyful life.
7 Tips for a Meaningful Psychedelic Trip
Take what works for you from this list and discard the rest. I’m using both my own experiences and those of clients.
1. Consider Your Set and Setting
Mindset is vital. Ask yourself, “What do I want from this experience?” Then create a setting to achieve that desired outcome. For example, if you want to make peace with the impermanence of life, then create the kind of setting that encourages that.
Some people enjoy being outside, in nature, during their psychedelic experience. Others prefer to be inside where they feel safe and comfortable.
I’ve experienced outside journeys with ayahuasca and psilocybin mushrooms. When I recently set my intention to explore within, using strong psilocybin truffles purchased in Amsterdam, I thought about the best setting for an internal journey. For me, that involved wearing a mask and listening to music on noise-canceling earbuds inside my bedroom. This led to a profound awakening I’m still processing today.
Everyone is different. Deeply consider your mindset ahead of a trip, and the optimal physical setting to achieve the kind of experience you want.
2. Fast to Avoid Nausea
For some, a profound psychedelic experience includes purging. This is usually through vomiting. It can be a way for your body to rid itself of toxins or toxic energy before awakening.
If you’d like an experience without nausea or vomiting, consider fasting 4-12 hours beforehand. This can allow the medicine to work faster since it won’t compete with food and the digestion process. It also helps you avoid vomiting.
I did this with the truffles, at 7:30 am on a beautiful Saturday morning. I hadn’t had anything to eat since 6 pm the night before. As a result, I didn’t feel sick or nauseated. And yet, I had the most intense and pleasurable psychedelic experience of my life.
3. Pick Good Music
That’s as subjective as it sounds. What music, if any, sounds good to you for this experience?
Ayahuasca retreats sometimes feature guitar music playing softly in the background. Johns Hopkins uses a playlist during their psychedelic clinical trials. They’ve made that playlist available. It includes mostly instrumental pieces without lyrics so as not to interfere with the participant’s experience.
Ultimately, you can do whatever works for you. I’ve used Johns Hopkins’s playlist and even added to it. I wanted familiar music with lyrics in the middle of the playlist so I included the album Mezzanine by Massive Attack. This music marks me the deepest because it was playing when my sons were conceived.
It has an “I’m altering the universe” type of energy for me.
So hearing those songs during a trip while I revisited certain moments of my life elicited profound emotions. Consider what might do the same for you.
Johns Hopkins ends their playlist with Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles and What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong. To experience these songs while returning from my journey was beyond poignant.
Well done, doctors. Well done.
4. Journal Your Thoughts
Some people find it helpful to write down their thoughts or revelations during a trip. Keep a journal and pen/pencil nearby if you’d like that option. During integration afterward, it might be helpful to read what you’ve written. Of course, if you don’t want to write down anything you don’t need to. But the materials are there just in case.
During my recent trip, I wrote things like, “If you never felt tension, you’d never know the pleasure of letting go, so be grateful for tension.”
I also wrote, “I don’t ever remember feeling ‘more than’ anyone…just ‘other than.’”
I’m not sure how profound these thoughts are, but reading them helps me better process what happened during my 7-hour journey. Sometimes, better processing after leads to a more meaningful experience overall.
5. Choose Your Company Wisely
Some people believe that plant medicine works best in communion with others. Others believe the experience is more pleasurable and profound with a therapist. Still, others prefer to be completely alone.
Sometimes it helps to be among a small group, such as a circle or retreat. You can benefit from each other’s energy and insight and create a powerful ceremony.
However, there are trippers who exhibit a performative quality with others around them. I tend to be quiet during profound experiences. This can unnerve others but helps me to be truly present. Additionally, I can do without all the yelling and screaming because it distracts me the way songs with lyrics might distract someone else.
6. Be Open
Psychedelic experiences can feel like several years of therapy in one day. It’s been called an emotional laxative. It definitely allows you to process what’s worrying you without the worry. You can explore things that make you sad without feeling sad.
When your ego dies during a trip, you can recognize it with wonder and awe. This is how plant medicine helps to take anxiety out of the equation when you’re contemplating death.
7. Integrate Afterward
Integration allows you to process the experience and develop needed tools to connect what you learned with daily living.
How to Have a Good Trip
Psychedelics aren’t for everyone. But in the right circumstances, they can help people die, and live, with less fear. Ultimately, you know yourself better than anyone. Take some time to choose what might be best for you. That’s how to have a safe, meaningful psychedelic trip.
Enjoy your journey.
If you’re in Chicago working with a therapist and needing a tripsitter, contact Anitya Doula Services for support.