Sam Ripples
by on July 2, 2019
96 views

The torch sits hesitantly in my palm as I stare at the small baggie in front of me decorated with Batman symbols. Inside of it is a chunk of what could be wax or shatter, but if you take a whiff, you’ll know that’s not what it is. It smells like new shoes, like plastic being manufactured. Inside of that little baggie is DMT.

My first experience with this mind-bending drug was beautiful. In 2013, I attended Aura Music and Arts Festival in Live Oak, Florida. It was a small music festival, the line-up mostly consisting of jam bands and electronic artists, but it was one of my favorites when it was around. The vibes were so welcoming and pure — no one was there to show off on Instagram or Facebook, we were all there for the music and vibes. And the drugs, of course.

That weekend was pivotal for me in a lot of ways. I met one of my best friends one night on the most LSD I’ve ever done — five hits — a bear of man who handed me a pair of fractal glasses and laid down in the grassy field with me to look at the stars. I couldn’t stop laughing. The stars had never looked as beautiful as they had that night. I was convinced that I’d died and gone straight to music festival heaven. I couldn’t stop shouting, “I’m finally dead!” It was the most freeing feeling of my short, dumb life.

The next day, another friend found me some DMT. I’d been wanting to try it for over a year, reading stories on the Internet about encounters with machine elves. DMT is short for dimethyltriptamine, a molecule that is found naturally in many plants and animals. It has been used in the form of ayahausca by shaman in South America since time immemorial, but DMT is the pure form of the drug. When taken in that form, the trip only lasts about ten to fifteen minutes. It’s different than LSD and mushrooms in that it comes on extremely quickly, visuals falling over your eyes in a dizzyingly quick array. For that reason, I also think it’s much more confusing than other traditional psychedelics —you only have a few moments to grab onto insight or realization before you’re deposited back into the real world, visuals still dappling the edges of your vision.

I wandered off into the woods by myself that day, a bowl in hand already packed with the DMT by my friends. I found a log to perch upon and stared up at the canopy of live oaks above me, their branches dripping Spanish moss like seaweed. The sky peeked through, a cornflower blue so deep it almost looked like an ocean. I settled back against a tree and held the lighter to the bowl.

Hold the smoke in, my friends had told me. Don’t exhale until you start to feel something. A vibrating, buzzing began behind my eyes, spreading down into my chest. I took another frantic hit off of the bowl before I lost control of my body and slumped against the tree, eyes staring upward. The canopy above me began to morph — instead of each individual tree reaching their branches towards one another, hogging sunlight, the canopy transformed into one organism with many nodes, all interconnected. It’s hard to describe, even for someone who has been bathing in words constantly since my childhood. It looked a bit like the images of “crown shyness” I’ve found on the Internet, except with no “shyness”. All of the trees became one.

I’ve seen so many beautiful things in my inward journeys with psychedelics, but I’m not a visual person. For me, the insights I gain are far deeper than just insane visuals — probably because I don’t usually have insane visuals. Psychedelics have a certain feeling that I enjoy: that butterfly feeling in the belly, the opening of possibility around you to include anything and everything. I’ve never gotten than from DMT, however. It’s the one psychedelic that has limited me to just beautiful visuals, not many insights to be had beyond that.

I wanted to change that. Last year, I abstained from psychedelics to see if I could get a better handle on my mental health. It worked great — I came back this year to it with a completely different mindset, although with twinges of anxiety still wearing me down. When a friend got his hands on some DMT, I knew I needed to dip my toes back in. I’d tried it a handful of times since, in differing environments, alone and around others, and still hadn’t gotten much from it. It was time to delve a little deeper.

So we return to me, torch in hand, staring at the baggie. A pair of expensive headphones hang around my neck and my favorite Grateful Dead song is queued up on Archive.org for me to enter space with. I don’t have a dabber, so the process of heating up the nail is rife with anxiety. I am about to blast off, I tell myself. The moment the DMT hits the nail, the smell fills the room: burning plastic, a smell I’d recognize anywhere. I hurry to put my mouth to the bong and begin breathing it in, swirling the carb cap around to aerate the hit. I press play frantically before the drug takes over, pulling the headphones over my ears. Jerry’s guitar swells in the darkness of my mind.

The first thing you feel with DMT is the vibrations. It starts in your face and travels down into your chest, filling you up with a vibrant, glorious pressure. I always close my eyes around this time and that’s when the pulsating and brilliant visuals began. They can array in pattern in myriad ways — from an 8-bit video game to an Alex Gray painting — but the feeling in my chest is always the same. Once, I was almost pulled away from my body, but I fought it hard. I have yet to break through. It’s scary to do so. It feels like dying and who isn’t afraid to die?

Part of the reason I love psychedelics is because my fear of death has always been my central reason for anxiety. It began when I was a child, when I first learned what death was. I could not sleep for fear that I would spontaneously combust or have a heart attack or die of cancer no one knew I had, and soon that anxiety transformed to take over my entire life.

However, it wasn’t until I was twenty-one and tripping on mushrooms for the first time that I realized I even had anxiety. I’d never been able to diagnose this heavy feeling in my belly that had followed me around every moment of the day, and no one really tried to help me. I was told I had an “attitude problem” when my irritation got too bad, instead of anyone seeing what was underneath. My entire life I’d been trapped inside of a small dark room and didn’t even know. But when I opened the door for the first time, the light 
flooded in, and my love story with psychedelics began.

Back to me on the couch: The pulsing behind my eyes slows, images flashing in the darkness. Jerry’s guitar floats softly in the the abyss, playing at my heartstrings as always. This particular song is called “Dark Star” and this recording is famously known as “Beautiful Jam”. It is my absolute favorite piece of music ever created and I knew it had the energy to pull me into another realm. Go have a listen if you’re into beautiful guitar noodling.

This time, the images are subdued. My frantic rip off of my bong hasn’t been quick enough and I haven’t gotten a big enough hit. The music pulls me away, though, off into a space inside of my mind that I haven’t visited in a long time: gratitude. I am full of it, overflowing with music and love, and a warmth spreads through my chest. Pure feeling rolls across me, opening up all of my pores up to the golden honey of happiness that spreads through my veins like liquid light. A woman, pregnant with child, forms in the endless fractals, her round belly transparent to show the baby inside. That morphs into an mandala of crimson and gold, breaking down to form me, with my boyfriend’s arm around my middle, smiling like a beacon of light.

I open my eyes and gaze around my apartment. Art decorates every wall, some framed and some tacked up with double-sided tape. Festival posters from my years as a live music junkie are some of my favorites, along with a poster for my favorite band, Umphrey’s McGee, that depicts Frankenstein in an underwater scene that includes the ruins of a castle. My apartment is a time-capsule of my years of happiness and sadness that includes art my best friends made me when I was depressed as well as irreplaceable memories. I am flooded again with that overwhelming feeling of gratitude.

Two years ago, I never thought I’d be doing DMT again. The last time I’d done it was with a pathological liar of an ex-boyfriend who’d ruined the entire experience with his loud mouth and inauthentic words. When we broke up, I’d moved back to Florida from my home in Colorado and did nothing but work online and hula hoop for a year straight. My mental health was in the toilet — I could barely leave the house.

I’ve worked hard since then, and the DMT allows me to take myself out of the present moment and really look at myself in a deeper way. As the song crescendoes, I begin to cry, tears leaking out the corners of my eyes at the beauty of this moment. So many hours of meditation and energy-balancing, so many lists of goals and spoken affirmations, so many panic attacks breathed through and calmed, so many words spoken tactfully instead of angrily, so many hours of hoop therapy, so many books read on communication and self-help, so many times I have put myself first and grown as a human being. Looking back often hurts me — painful memories and trauma overcoming nostalgia, always — but this time it is beautiful.

I may have never seen the elves, but this time, I’m happy not to. It’s not always trippy fractals and mind-bending beauty: the introspection is why I keep coming back. To know yourself is the highest power, I believe, and there are always hidden passageways to walk down, mysteries about yourself to discover in the maze that is your mind. If you are brave enough and of sound enough mind to find these beautiful corridors, I salute you. We are on a wondrous journey, an adventure into ourselves. I cannot wait to see what we find.

Sam Ripples
Allison Did you listen to it? It's my absolute favorite song of all time. Just so amazing! Thanks for reading!
1
1
July 7, 2019
Allison
Yea I listened to it, it's really good! I like Dark Star but there are so many live versions and I have never heard that particular song, so it was nice to have a link to it right in the article! I just saw Dead and Company for the first time a couple weekends ago. My favorite Dead song is Eyes of t...more
1
1
July 7, 2019
Sam Ripples
Allison That's so awesome! I love the Dead more than life and it makes my heart so full to meet someone else who does. They're really what started me on this journey and I owe so much of who I am today to their music and the community around them. Eyes of the World is a great tune--I just saw Phil L...more
1
1
July 7, 2019
Allison
I loved the drums/space part of the concert! It was so atmospheric and beautiful.
July 8, 2019