Citation: Cristian. "A Reflection on Purpose and Action and Living: An Experience with LSD (exp108949)". Erowid.org. Apr 6, 2021. erowid.org/exp/108949
To give some context and background information: this is not my first trip on a psychedelic. Mushrooms was my first, then it was DMT and then acid (LSD or some research chemical, I'm not entirely sure). Since my second mushroom trip, I’ve thought of psychedelics as something that can aid spiritual development, indirectly if not directly. It was actually psychedelics that made me decide to take my life in the direction of spiritual development, which to me means ordaining as a Buddhist monk. Though the Buddha taught that intoxicating substances should be avoided, and I agree with his advice, it’s hard to deny that dabbling in them could inspire insight or investigation into things such as the four noble truths, and the nature of our being. I’ve also smoked weed, a lot, and at the time of this trip I’ve found it to be detrimental to my practice, so I’ve begun to abandon it. It makes me think too much, particularly in a negative way. It obviously clouds my awareness, I zone out a lot on it.
Speaking of my decision to become a monk: practicing Buddhism, to me, is not just about believing in peace and love. There’s an active effort to be attentive to one’s experience, and it’s necessary to not let oneself get caught up in emotions and thoughts — after all, the purpose of the path is to liberate oneself from suffering, as is said in the Simsapa Sutta (SN 56.31), and being dragged around by the mind is a way of suffering. Suffering comes when emotions and thoughts are both indulged in and resisted, so a balance is needed. My rule of thumb is to be open to experience, but not careless with it, and to have responsibility for my actions. At the same time, my practice is not perfect; at times I do resist things such as entertainment and drug use, and at times I welcome it and embrace it. I think this experience was part of my effort to find a balanced way to approach psychedelics and entertainment, in between indulgence and aversion.
My brother, being a huge Grateful Dead fan, invited me to one of Dead & Company’s recent concerts with his girlfriend. He brought along some LSD. I’ve never listened to the Grateful Dead much, and I figured this would be an interesting way to spend time with my brother before I leave home for the monastery: going to my first concert as they did back in the day when the Grateful Dead were touring all over the place. I think my relationship with my brother has always been sort of rocky, but we get along. His impatience and arrogance can cause conflict but he has good intentions. Aside from friction here and there, our relationship is well. It was his generosity that lead him to invite me to this concert. His girlfriend is similar to him in some ways, different in others. She’s more calm and relaxed, but can be overwhelmed at times, by anger or sadness.
In addition to all of this, for a while I’ve had a suspicion that I’ve got Asperger’s. It’s never been diagnosed, but I’ve had some symptoms such as poor social skills, difficulty articulating speech, and “specific interests”, or interest in things that people find unusual. Looking at myself in videos, I hold myself (in terms of posture) awkwardly. But it’s just speculation. Saying this may offer a perspective on my behavior and mindset, in one way or another.
Now, the story. First thing is the concert. We had taken the tabs of LSD (one for each of us — the amount on each tab is unclear) 30 minutes to an hour before the concert began. I had the tab on my tongue for three minutes before I swallowed it, unintentionally (I always found it difficult to hold it there). My brother assured me it would still work. All was well. I was a tad apprehensive (as usual before a trip), but it was manageable. I had my camera with me and was taking pictures here and there, but it was hard for me to find a good one.
About fifteen minutes before the concert, I began to feel a sort of heaviness in my step. My jaw was getting a little tense and I was yawning often — whether on acid or mushrooms, these were the signs that I was beginning to trip. Soon enough, everyone’s skin was shifting between their normal skin tone and red, the color of blood. For a Buddhist, this is a good opportunity to consider asubha (foulness or unattractiveness); when I start getting this visual effect, I begin to perceive the body as a sort of bag, a bag of flesh and blood. It can be entertaining, frightening, or calming. If I could photograph it, I would have.
After making a trip to the bathroom (a missed opportunity for me to reflect on asubha), we went to the venue, which was a steep hill. We set down a small woven mat, and waited for the concert to begin with everyone else. My brother’s girlfriend tried to sneak a chillum into the concert via her bra, but had lost it. She was pretty frustrated. “We’ll survive,” I said, trying to lighten the mood. “Yeah, you will,” she told me. And so it became apparent that perhaps she uses marijuana to sooth her anxieties.
The concert began. The trip was coming up, and I didn’t really know what to do — I felt like I was supposed to be doing something, like dancing. But insecurity has been an issue of mine for a long time, and still is here and there. But I remembered my motivation to be open and willing to express myself — being afraid to do so is suffering, and so is detrimental to one’s own well-being. I noticed that my insecurity came with a sense that somebody was watching me, critically, behind my back — and with that idea I was hunched over, as if cowering away from whoever it was that was judging me. It’s worth noting that, for much of my life, my brother did this sort of thing to me. He could be a bully at times. And he was sitting or standing behind me for much of this concert. But I questioned this worry and insecurity, and dropped it. I relaxed the tension in my back, and I let my body do its thing. Instead of experiencing the concert the “right way”, I was lead to just experience it however I pleased. I tried to take a picture of the venue, but it was getting dark and the angle wasn’t interesting: the result was just a blurry picture of the stage.
And so it rolled on. I became fascinated with this idea that “this is where it’s happening”. It. The party. The thing people do when they’re not working. Self-expression and celebration. And not just concerts, it was this concert. If you weren’t at this concert, you were at home or at work. This idea was quite big for me during this experience and continued to evolve.
The intermission came by about an hour into the show (or maybe not, as my sense of time was becoming distorted). It took me by surprise, because everything was grooving but now it just paused. First came the cheer, and now everyone was doing nothing but talking. I felt a sense of panic in myself and in the people around me: what do we do? What’s going on? But the LSD reminded me: just go with it! It’s part of the show.
I felt a sense of panic in myself and in the people around me: what do we do? What’s going on? But the LSD reminded me: just go with it! It’s part of the show.
Everyone’s actually doing fine. And as soon as I accepted, it was as if everyone else did the same. The chaotic halt became a rest, a time to socialize with other concert goers. I turned around to face my brother and his girlfriend, who were both having a good time, as was I. I was trying to tell my brother that this was great, but talking is very difficult for me to do on a psychedelic. My mouth is tense, making it hard to articulate, and I hear my voice as if it were in my ears, like when you yawn. And I kept yawning! But I did what I could to communicate to him that this was a great time. I was celebrating. I was also witnessing the cliches of concerts, and my brother was acknowledging them as well, uttering phrases I’ve heard before but never in the context of a concert, where it became apparent that “this must be where that phrase comes from!”
At this time, the trip wasn’t maxing out, but it was pretty intense. I felt as if I was “riding the waves” of the concert. Not only did the hill give the impression that the audience was a giant wave, but it seemed as if the audience’s behavior was rippling, and in a sense it was. Beach balls from one corner of the venue would bounce their way to where I was, as if the beach ball was in turbulent water. And each time It would come to me, I’d hit it elsewhere, and it would go to the next part of the sea which was the crowd. I was a like a wave, the beachball an object on its surface, and everything happening within the crowd was either like a fish underwater or a part of the water, in the sense of a bubble on the surface. My brother said something about “shoelacing”. I noticed he and his girlfriend were sitting side-by-side, with their legs extended in a “V” shape, and so I did the same, putting my left ankle on his right, thinking, “shoelacing!”
He looked at me like he didn’t know what I was doing, and then he untied my shoe — remember, this is part of the wave. My shoelace was like a bubble in the water. I heard people laughing behind me, in a fun sort of way. No need to resist out of a sense that they were laughing at me, it’s just part of the wave, why not join? I did what felt like the right thing to do, which was to tie my shoe. I noticed it was full of grass stains. My hands were shifting between red and pink. The crowd sounded like a very low quality mp3 file of people talking, pure wobbly gibberish.
I learned a very useful way of shoe-tying on youtube. I just wrap the shoelaces around my finger in a certain way, cross them, pull, and I’ve got the bunny ears in one single fluid motion. As I was going through this motion, which is naturally focused on the laces, my vision began to zoom in on the task at hand, quite intensely. As my vision intensified, my hearing did as well. Everyone’s voices became louder, especially the ones behind me, who were being blown away by this shoe-tying technique. My mind filtered out the nonsensical noise of the crowd and focused on the gradually clarifying and intensifying sounds of my immediate surroundings. As soon as I had finished, my vision and hearing was back as it was before, broad and aware of the waves — I had just dived into the water and was back riding on the surface.
The concert started up again. It was probably around 8PM. We were all excited. My brother’s girlfriend had found the chillum, it was mysteriously hidden in her bra where she had put it in the first place. For the next few hours, the band jammed. During the jam, I noticed the way I was dancing with the music felt like I was stomping on berries — making jam. All of my kinetic energy, or chi, was going down into my elbows, and down into my heels. I was making jam with my elbows and heels. I was jamming! Surely this is where the term comes from? I don’t know, but the music is what lead me to dance in this way, and feel this way. Unfortunately I don’t know what the song was, but man, what a jam.
During the concert I had noticed that there was a photographer next to me. He looked pretty nervous, which was understandable: he had a huge telephoto lens on his DSLR camera. But it was getting me nervous. “Didn’t the signs in the lot tell us that no professional photographers were allowed? Is this guy going to publish these pictures on Facebook? Is he going to get me in trouble on purpose?” I’ll say it again: this concert was where it was all happening. Everything. Everyone was here. Everyone was enjoying it, everybody was on drugs — except the people who were at work. My boss. “What if she saw me on Facebook, tripping as hard as I was? Surely, this guy must be trying to cause trouble. I won’t be able to ordain as a monk because I’ll be caught in a scandal with everyone else at the concert. I’ll be screwed.” Bhavatanha, the craving for becoming, was invading my mind and inspiring fear and anxiety.
But then it occurred to me: just ride the wave. Let this guy take pictures. He probably just works for the venue, and it seems like my nervousness is actually rubbing off onto him. Not only has he been pointing his camera at the stage the whole time, his lens looks too long to get me in trouble; if he pointed it at me, he probably would have gotten my nostrils, not my groove. And so, I jammed with this guy, and he didn’t even know it. Let him be! Let him do his jam!
I looked behind me, to my left, to see my brother’s girlfriend sitting. Sitting! When she could be dancing! Is something wrong? I immediately realized that my expectations that she should be dancing were taking over. I turned it to compassion and kindness. “All good?” I asked, to be sure. My brother assured me she was fine. All good! Let her sit if she wants! Let’s get back to the groove.
I noticed there were some big guys a few feet in front of me. Probably security guards. I think I remember them approaching a group of people and asking if “everything was all good here”. They were the authorities, but what amazed me was their ability to harmonize with the situation. Everyone’s on drugs, but that’s a given here. Might as well go with it. Ride the wave!
The trip was really intensifying. I remembered how my brother once said that the Grateful Dead played in accordance with the quality of the audience. I could really feel it. It was so good. The band was sending waves in all directions, and I was riding them as if I was a boat in an beautifully intense musical storm. The way I was standing (in a horse stance) naturally lead me to adopt the attitude of somebody commanding the waves like I would if I were commanding horses from a chariot. My hands were grasping the waves like whips, and I was sending ripples across the audience towards the music stage. When a wave came from the left, I grabbed it and threw it to the right. When it came from the right, I sent it to the left. But here and there, I’d throw it at the stage. This was a few hours into the concert, maybe 10PM.
I began to think, “THIS is what Dean Moriarty was talking about! This crazy jam, this self expression!” The guitarist was going nuts. I was playing the air-guitar right handed, and when the wave went left-to-right, I immediately switched to a left-handed playing style. Then the guitarist began to tell me something in the language of sound. What it was, I’m not sure, but I was listening hard, bringing one hand to my ear as if paying close attention, while keeping with the beat, dancing. Again, which hand I was using depended on the direction of the waves, of the music, of the energy of the crowd.
As I jammed with the band, I began to think about what I was doing with my life, but in what felt like a great way to do so; in the same way I was expressing myself via my body, I was expressing myself via thought. “Luang por” — my teacher at the monastery — “certainly wouldn’t encourage everything I’m doing here, but without a doubt he would acknowledge that the harmony and collective celebration here at this concert is something beautiful. Buddhism doesn’t reject these things, it simply transcends them.”
Contemplation of birth, aging, sickness, and death is also part of Buddhist practice. But here, as the concert was approaching the final hour, I could not think of birth and death in the usual way. Though during these moments I was totally embracing these thoughts, now I look back at them with a sort of weariness. The thoughts were as follows:
“This concert is a moment of history. I’m a part of history. And by history, I mean that this is THE event that’s happening right now. It’s HUGE.” I had lost any sense that anything was happening beyond this concert. I was practically born here. I had no parents, no brother. I was born from nothing, as was everyone else, and it was this concert we were born into — nothing happened before this. Those who were older than me weren’t old at all, as if we were all the same age here. I began to wonder what would happen after this concert. “Everybody’s going to be talking about it! When I go to the monastery, Luang Por’s going to ask me: ‘hey, you were at that concert too, weren’t you?’ And we’ll both reflect on how great it was!”
I noticed I was getting hot, and taking more frequent sips from the water jug that my brother had taken into the concert. I wasn’t feeling good. I was probably exhausted from all of that dancing. Thought I was overheating. Thankfully, the concert was now ending.
It seemed so abrupt. Everyone was jamming out, but now it was like they all woke up from a brilliant dream and had become totally different people. It was pure chaos. Everyone was rushing to get out. What was the hurry? I was so confused. What about the collective celebration? Where’d it all go? I began to realize: it was illusory. It was the acid that made me think like that. And so, my brother and his girlfriend — whoever they were, I had no relationship to them because we were all just born today — and I made our way to the parking lot.
I was so sweaty. It felt like my backpack was covered in sweat — or worse, piss. Did everyone piss on my bag during that huge party? There was so much garbage all over the ground. My brother assured me that there was nothing on the bag, but I was skeptical, so I didn’t put it on. I walked followed my brother and his girlfriend around, holding my bag to my chest. I was struggling to grasp the situation. Where were we going? Who are these people I’m following? Did I drop anything that I need? What do I need? Nevertheless, I had faith in the idea that I should be following these people who I might’ve met before. I remembered, visually, my wallet and phone. “I have no idea what these things are, or what their purpose is, but I hope I have them. I’ll be screwed if I don’t”. I found them in my pockets, along with my camera. Hoping they wouldn’t fall out, I wondered: “is there anything else I’m missing?” And I kept trying to find whatever it was, even though there was actually nothing else I had taken with me.
We were all heading in a direction that was a total mystery to me. I had just come out of a womb (the concert), the first stage of life. Now was the second stage, and I was stumbling everywhere. We made our way to the bathrooms and vendor booths, which looked trashed. “Wait here and don’t go anywhere,” said my brother, who still might as well have been a total stranger. I don’t know where he went. I waited in the light of an extremely bright lamp, as hundreds of people rushed past me, wasted out of their minds. I briefly came face-to-face with an older woman who had her makeup running down her face, looking like a monster in distress. I nervously said “hello” and walked past her to get out of the light, fearing I would become a target of the police; it began to dawn on me that we were all running away from the police, to safety.
I had forgotten why I was standing where I was, and began to walk around the area when my brother found me. We kept moving. A girl who was a few feet away said “trap” in the strangest way. “Traaaaaap”. My brother and I joked about it afterwards. Somebody in the stampede compared the whole situation to a meat-grinder. We were all like cattle, blindly heading towards these big giant bright lights, crammed together in a hot and confused mess. Suddenly something caused us to change direction, and we were now heading in the right direction, towards the lot.
I was still questioning my existence. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, I couldn’t comprehend anything. Everything about harmony and jamming had gone out the window. All I had was this sense that I was mortal, and I needed to stay alive, and a contradicting thought process that I was just born yet was never born and was always here. We got to the car and left, all of us were tripping. Car sirens were going off, people were huffing nitrous oxide from balloons, some were throwing up from being so drunk or high. I saw lots of police too.
We escaped the madness, my brother behind the wheel, his girlfriend in the passenger seat, me in the back, still wondering if I had all of my necessities for this new life I had just been born into, and at the same time, for the life I’ve been a part of for 20 years. I was tired, but afraid to close my eyes and fall asleep. My brother was confused about the brights on his car: “are they on or off?” We were on the highway, and here he was distracted by the interior of his car! I was terrified. I managed to say that “we need to pull over… for our safety”. We briefly had gone off the road, before my brother refocused on the task at hand and drove on. “We are NOT pulling over”. I remembered the police who were all over the place, and saw them pulling people over. I realized: if we pull over, I could get in serious trouble.
Driving while intoxicated, tripping, or extremely sleep deprived is dangerous and irresponsible because it endangers other people. Don't do it!]
Though it took more than an hour to get there, the drive back seemed like it took only 15 minutes. We were in one part of the state, then 30 miles away, instantaneously. During the drive, as I avoided sleep, I tried to get my bearings on reality. Again, the question: what should I be doing right now? My sense of responsibility was coming back to me.
Again, the question: what should I be doing right now? My sense of responsibility was coming back to me.
“Well, I’m alive. I have a responsibility to stay alive. We all do. My brother’s tripping and driving, but he seems to be doing fine, so I’ll trust him. I won’t interfere with him. If I die, I die, and that will be the consequences of my own actions, as well as his.” I was glad to be able to reflect on karma and death. It helped settle me. It also made it hard to deny: acid can be very dangerous. In his teachings on the precepts, the Buddha advises us to abandon “intoxicants which lead to heedlessness”. I began to remember that this acid, as awesome as it was, is one of those intoxicants. My understanding of life was totally distorted and I had no idea how to do anything. I couldn’t comprehend things. How can I be heedful like that? And so I was faced with another realization, or reminder: I have a responsibility to be heedful. I must be alert. The Dhammapada says: “Heedfulness is the path to the Deathless. Heedlessness is the path to death. The heedful die not. The heedless are as if dead already.”
When we got back to my brother’s apartment, still tripping, we watched that 70’s show, and I was grateful to be alive. I was still having trouble comprehending things the next day, but I was glad that I had not forgotten the importance of being mindful and attentive to the experience at hand, with a sense of responsibility. My memories were coming back; I was no longer simply a sentient being who was born at the concert. I had remembered that my brother and I came from the same place. Things were coming back to me. I was sane again!
Reflecting on the trip: I don’t know if I’ll ever trip again… I’m going to the monastery soon. But I know that I have no need for doing that sort of thing anymore. Earlier I said that this trip was about me trying to find balance in drug use. Thinking about it now, I think that the balance is found by realizing the “allures and drawbacks and escape” (described in the Mahadukkhakkhandha sutta) of drugs. Simply put, drugs have their pleasures and pains, as does everything else — why trap oneself in them? To attach to them is to be chained to samsara. One escapes from the drawbacks of all things not by pushing them away, but by letting go of them. Even life itself has its drawbacks — if escape was about pushing away, we could just kill ourselves. But that’s not the way. That’s the way I understand it. I’m looking forward to ordaining.
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