Citation: lunarpursuit. "Thrashin in Paradise: An Experience with 5-MeO-DMT (exp114922)". Erowid.org. Nov 3, 2020. erowid.org/exp/114922
My journey with toad medicine was without question the most intense and impactful psychedelic experience I've ever had.
Let’s start with a bit of context. I was aware of the toad for years, but I never pursued it. Like ayahuasca, I was fascinated, as it seemed both exotic and intense, and I enjoyed reading about other peoples experiences with it. I suppose I placed it in the “if it was meant to happen, it’ll happen” category. In the meantime, N,N-DMT was readily available and provided me with ample opportunities for travel and exploration of self.
A small group of close friends were organizing a trip to Mexico, and I was informed that a toad medicine ceremony would be a happening while we were there.
Some of these friends had experienced this previously, in this same location (a beachfront property near Tulum) with the same shaman. For that reason, I felt like this was a good opportunity for me. I would be with close trusted friends in a safe place, and I could lean on their expertise to prepare for the experience.
Fast forward to Mexico. The property is beautiful and secluded, miles away from the tourist attractions in Tulum. We're all settled in and present, enjoying each others company, spending our days on the beach and the nights cooking and eating together.
I knew that the shaman would be coming in a few days. I knew that some of us would be partaking, a few were on the fence, and some would sit this one out. I generally wasn't thinking about it too much. I was a little nervous, but didn't want to put the experience on a pedestal. There was no sense in worrying about it, right?
The shaman arrived for dinner. He was friends with some of our friends, and it put me at ease to see them embrace, as they clearly had some history.
I introduced myself and we chatted for a bit. I can't deny that I was a little intimidated by his presence. How often do you have dinner with a shaman?
He'd be returning the following evening for the ceremony. He gave me a few general pointers: eat a clean diet the next day, stick to fruits and veggies, don't drink alcohol, and try to set an intention for the experience.
I did not talk through my concerns with him, as I wasn’t even sure what they were. I had a general "healthy fear" of this significant, and potentially life-changing, experience ahead of me.
The following day, we went out on a a long boat ride. Everyone else was drinking and celebrating, but I stayed sober and felt a bit somber. I struggled to be fully present on this expedition, as I was feeling nervous about the toad experience on the horizon.
I believe my anxiety was mainly related to control, or a lack thereof. Historically, with any psychedelic situation, I’m on my own timeline and I’m in control: of the source, the dosage, the setting, the timing, etc. This time, I was not in control.
We got back to the property to meet up with the shaman, and it turns out he isn’t there yet. He was on his own timeline, and therefore he was in control of mine. All I could do was wait.
I went for a long walk on the beach alone and watched the moon rise. It was a beautiful evening, with brilliant stars and warm breezes gently shaking the palm trees. I was anxious and killing time, not fully appreciative of my surroundings.
I closed in on a general intention of “being fully present” for this experience, with a hope that this could help me be more present in my daily life with my family, at work, etc. I hoped to take experiences as they come and bask in them, rather than speeding up the present moment in anticipation of the future.
The shaman arrived about 2 hours late. He had us all sit in a circle on the sand under the beautiful night sky. The constant sound of the waves crashing behind us was both soothing and eery. A few friends were also present, sitting outside of the circle. They weren’t there to partake in the medicine, but rather to "hold space".
He spoke for a bit about the origins of the medicine, how he got involved with it, how it turned into his lifes work, and how to open ourselves to the experience. He told us that he had extracted the medicine from Colorado River toads in the Sonoran desert, and how this medicine differs from traditional DMT or ayahuasca, which are both plant-based.
I did my best to follow along, but between his somewhat broken english and the sounds of the wind and waves, I heard about 50% of what he said.
The shaman spoke for about an hour and a half. After some time I found myself wishing we could get this over with. Much like sitting in the waiting room as a child with my mother, knowing that I’d be getting a shot from the doctor, my anxiety had me wanting to just get this over with as quickly as possible.
Some of those sitting outside of the circle “holding space” had tried the toad previously, while others had not. I found myself wondering why they had such patience to sit here for so long and listen to the shaman speak.
He showed us the pipe he'd be using. I recognized this as a crack pipe and felt another tinge of anxiety/vague guilt. He explained that he'd come sit with us, one at a time, to prepare the medicine and help us smoke it.
He started making his way around the circle. He spent anywhere from 5-10 minutes with each person.
He'd use his headlamp to take some medicine (shards of crystalized toad venom) out of a small tin, load it into the pipe, heat it up with a torch, and help with the smoking process: deep inhale, deeper than you think you can breathe, then shrug your shoulders as you breathe in even deeper, hold, exhale, and then immediately take another deep hit. Repeat 3-4x.
As he finished up with someone, they’d gently lie back onto their yoga mat, and he'd move along to the next person.
I tried not to stare too long at any of these interactions, as I wanted to respect people's experiences and give them privacy, but I couldn't look away completely. I observed that folks would lie down rapidly, and some moaned or laughed a bit.
He finally came to me. He had a gentle, caring disposition, and spoke softly.
He asked how I was feeling, and whether I had ever smoked anything, to get a sense of how much help I'd need breathing the harsh smoke deeply and holding it in.
Well, this was it. There was no turning around now.
He pinched a few small shards out of the tin and placed them in the pipe. As he heated it with the torch, it filled with white, milky smoke. I had butterflies in my stomach. As he brought the torch to my mouth, I took a very deep hit.
The smoke was warm and mildly unpleasant, although not intolerable. It smelled a bit like burnt tortilla. I exhaled, and he immediately held the pipe up again, encouraging me to breathe in as deeply as possible, and then breathe even more until I couldn't possibly take anymore.
Between the first and second hit, my visual field began to distort, and I noticed a physical buzz, like gentle electricity.
After the third hit, I began to slowly lie back. I think this was partially my surrendering to the effects, and partially to back away from the pipe a bit. I think someone was behind me, helping me to recline, but I'm not entirely sure. I could feel an intense energy taking hold, and there was nothing subtle about the effects.
As I laid back and closed my eyes, I still had some grasp on my surroundings. I was still in the physical realm, aware of my body, and was lucid enough that I considered telling the shaman "I am still here", to ask for more medicine.
I didn't want to be greedy, or tempt fate more than I already had, so I stayed quiet. I figured perhaps the medicine would intensify or “take off" in the coming moments. I did my best to be fully present and surrender to the experience, but a nagging thought persisted that I hadn’t inhaled deeply enough, and as the effects slowly faded, I was a little disappointed that I didn't push it further.
I was sitting with these thoughts as the folks around me slowly returned from their experiences. Did I not go into this with the right intentions? Is preparation really that crucial in feeling the full effects of the toad medicine? Sure, the effects were intense, but it was more of a visual experience, along the lines of N,N-dimethyltryptamine. It felt like a lot of setup and preparation for a predictable experience.
What's wrong with me? Why can't I just enjoy the beautiful setting and this unique opportunity for what it is? Why can't I just be present?
As the shaman began to speak again, I was surprised to learn that we had just gone through a “warmup round”. That wasn’t the full experience. Wow, okay, that explains it. I felt relieved, and then immediately intimidated again.
He explained that this first round was to get a "base layer" of medicine in the body, and to teach us how to properly smoke it.
Some folks opted out of round two. For a brief moment, I considered tapping out as well. Then it dawned on me that this unique opportunity may not present itself a second time. I was in for the long haul.
I had a noticeable lingering buzz, and some mild visual distortions remained. The moon and stars had glowing rings around them.
I conferred with my friend Y for a moment, as he was holding space nearby. He encouraged me to embrace the experience and to “just let go”.
The shaman began to make his way around the circle again. This time around, the plumes of toad smoke were noticeably larger. I could smell and taste it. I had a strange feeling of connectivity, like the medicine was already in me and was waiting to be activated.
When he returned to me, I told him I was ready for more. It seems that he received my message loud and clear, though I suspect he knew how medicine much I "needed" without hearing my words.
This time around, each inhalation was dramatic. I breathed in so deeply that my shoulders hunched and my eyes widened. I don’t know that I could have breathed any deeper if my life depended on it.
After my third heavy exhale, I began to lean back. Once again, I think someone had their hands on me and guided me back, but I'm not sure of that. I felt supported. The shaman was still with me, and I could feel those holding space around me.
The onset of noticeable effects was rapid. I went from 0-60 in about 5 seconds.
My field of vision began to shake and blur, and while there were some interesting visual distortions, I couldn't pay much attention to them, as there was something else more significant happening. My breaths became audible and were probably a bit dramatic, like a post-yoga savasana exhalation. There was nothing subtle about what was happening to me this time around.
As I leaned back further, I began to relinquish control, and my “self" spilled across the ground behind me like a bucket of paint. I felt like I was being smeared across infinity. It became quickly apparent that I was dealing with something very real... Infinitely more real and tangible than any prior psychedelic experience.
As I realized I was no longer in control, my slightly audible breaths escalated into louder sighs of concern. What does it sound like to exhale to the tune of "oh no”? That’s what this sounded like. I felt compelled to be vocal, as if someone was encouraging me to push out sounds. The experience was now beyond comprehension.
Any grasp on the earthly concept of “control” disintegrated, along with my field of vision, my sense of self, place, and time. All of these were gone. I was no longer “there" to even understand what these things were anymore.
And that was it. I had finally done it… My casual dabbling with psychedelics brought me down this path, and I’d finally taken it too far. I poked the bear one too many times, and now I got what I deserved. I “knew" that nothing would ever be the same from this moment on, for the rest of eternity.
My ego shattered into a million pieces of nothingness. I had fully released control of everything and disintegrated.
I didn’t “let go”, but rather, by opening myself to this experience, all control was torn away from me. I wasn’t in the driver’s seat, or even in the passenger seat… I was hogtied and thrown into the trunk.
I wasn’t in the driver’s seat, or even in the passenger seat… I was hogtied and thrown into the trunk.
This sensation led into what I can only describe as a “whiteout”. Unlike an alcohol blackout, I was lucid in some capacity, but there was no “me”. There was no beach. There was no sky full of stars or night time. All of the energy around me was sucked into a blender and pixelated into nothingness. There was nothing.
It’s very difficult to describe the next part of the experience, but I’ll try to account for it. I don’t know whether this was 2 minutes later or 10, but I felt like I was suddenly hooked up to a glowing firehose of information, feeding me an incomprehensible amount of critical information that I could not consume. Terabytes of alien data were flowing through me faster than the speed of light.
I couldn’t even attempt to understand it all or process what I was receiving, but I do recall pieces of myself being highlighted in front of me: My identity is tied up in being a runner. I take pride in making people laugh. I take pride in my work. These basic concepts appeared in front of me and were represented as symbols. They were briefly “highlighted” in some capacity as they quickly flew by. It was like someone going through an old box of significant items, holding each one up to briefly inspect it before tossing it into a dumpster.
I was not aware of this while it was happening, but during this cosmic slideshow, my moaning had turned into carnal screaming. My loud “oh no" moans had turned into all-out screaming of “FUCK!”
I felt like someone was beckoning carnal feelings out of me, like a conductor leading a symphony of emotion. Some of this memory was formed by observers describing it to me later, but I remember feeling strongly encouraged to expel something, even though I didn’t know I was screaming at the time.
I vaguely recall bizarre harmonies (like modem tones) behind the noises I was making. I was the one making all of the noise, but someone was there with me encouraging it and "shaping it" as it erupted out of me. The emotion was exploding out of me with such force, like uncontrollable vomiting. Truly a full release of everything.
Meanwhile, I was receiving giant packages of information about human concepts like love, sexuality, race, money, reproduction, relationships vanity, etc. I was somehow aware of abstract themes, but didn’t have the time or ability to process anything deeper. It’s like I was watching them fly by on a conveyor belt.
I felt like all prejudices and assumptions, however deep in my subconsciousness, were being exposed and recalibrated. In retrospect, this felt like a kind of firmware update for my consciousness. It was very overwhelming, like alien script coming in backwards and upside-down at 100x speed, and I was trying to decipher it and read it out loud.
In retrospect, I suppose I was trying to read it out loud. When my screaming subsided, I was just flopping around on the beach and babbling. I’m told that it sounded like I was speaking in tongues. I have no recollection of this.
When I began to return to my physical self, the first thing I noticed was the pleasant sound of the shamans harp.
Soon after, I felt something in my hands and I realized I was gripping fistfuls of sand. Then I noticed soreness in my arms and legs, and realized I had been flailing around a bit, as the sand was dug up all around me. My throat was sore, too.
This was not the condition that I left my body in before I smoked the pipe.
I felt like I was waking up after a war, inside the foundation of an old house that had collapsed. I slowly came to, flopping my arms around and letting go of the sand that I had been squeezing in my palms. I was tripping out on how it felt to feel in my own body.
I mumbled “oh man” a few times as I remembered who was around me. I became aware of my friend Y first, and when I looked back at him, I felt his deep compassion and understanding. His smile told me that he knew exactly what I had gone through.
These people holding space who had experienced this before knew precisely what I had just experienced. I felt like I had connected with them in some deeply profound way, and that my entire being was exposed to them along the way.
In that moment I was fully convinced that they saw me for who I truly was through my experience, and that all of my all of my flaws, prejudices, ugly weaknesses were exposed. I felt that they saw them and still accepted me.
I felt overwhelming love and connection at that moment, unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. I now understood why they were so generous with their time while "holding space".
Y looked at me and his eyes was said everything, basically “yeah dude, I know”. I hugged him and told him that he was my brother. I don't normally say things like that to people, but those were the only words I could muster, and they felt right.
My friend was sitting next to me, and I began to listen to the tail end of his experience. He sounded like a small child talking to an imaginary friend. He seemed calm and happy, and mentioned something about "seeing this in a movie". I was struck by how he seemed relaxed, happy, and filled with awe. This seemed like the opposite of my experience.
I had strong lingering visual distortions. There was a large glowing ring of light around the moon, and I saw ripples and waves in the clouds. At any other time in life these visuals would have been significant, but they paled in comparison to the intensity of what I had just experienced on my journey, which went way beyond any visual field.
As everyone returned to their bodies, we stood in a circle and held hands. I felt disoriented, like I was still transitioning into my body.
Everyone was asked to share something about their experience, regardless of whether they had taken the medicine or held space. I wasn’t sure what to say, but I felt like any prejudices or assumptions about my friends here, old and new, had melted away, and so I said something about how I was “excited to get to know each of you, or to relearn who you are”.
As I said this, I noticed that my voice was hoarse, and it dawned on me that I must have been shouting.
I didn’t process much of my experience that night. I had so many questions, but was also overstimulated and exhausted. Some friends stayed up playing cards and drinking, but I went to bed shortly after the shaman left.
I don’t think I understood what ego death meant before this experience, but it dawned on me the following day that was precisely what I had experienced: a complete and total loss of self. In retrospect, I really had no idea what I was getting into, but I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for the magnitude of the experience.
The shaman came back to the property for dinner a few days later. I had a visceral reaction when I first saw him. It reminded me being a child and seeing a strict teacher while at a school basketball game on a weekend.
In the weeks that followed, I felt much more present, and calm. I didn’t feel so compelled to fill every moment with productivity.
I felt more cognizant of my thought patterns. In situations where I might have responded with negativity, I would catch myself and reconsider my approach.
I also felt like I had a better handle on my alcohol consumption: drinking slowly and enjoying it. I do think I could have focused on reintegration a bit more, as these things faded a bit with time.
I wrote this all out as a linear story, but I didn’t immediately recall it all so clearly. Some of it was recounted to me by others, like the guttural screaming and subsequent speaking in tongues. I was told that it looked like I was trying to dig to the center of the earth, but I have no recollection of screaming or digging. Some of these things, like the chanting, I vaguely remember only after being told about it.
Other parts of the experience have come back to me at random moments in the weeks and months that followed: A few nights ago, my wife was trying to get some raccoons out of our yard with a broom and making a “shoosh” noise to scare them away. I immediately recalled a similar noise made by the shaman as I re-entered my body. Her shoosh-ing completely stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t recall the shaman making such a noise until I heard it from her.
I am reminded of the experience on a regular basis. I still have scars on my ankles from thrashing around in the sand. Anytime I smell tortillas being cooked, I am immediately taken back to that yoga mat under the stars.
It’s been more than half a year since my toad experience, and I’m still processing it. I may never understand it, but I’ll certainly never forget it.
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