Citation: island. "The Freedom to Act: An Experience with Salvia divinorum (10x extract) (exp50324)". Erowid.org. Apr 5, 2006. erowid.org/exp/50324
I smoked Salvia divinorum a few nights ago. I have a moderate level of experience with psychedelics, having used most of the popular ones 1-3 times and my favorite, psilocybin mushrooms, 15 times, once at a high dose (7 grams - an entirely different experience from 3.5 grams). Salvia has been used 5 times in small doses, each time yielding enjoyable sub-threshold effects. Against my better judgment, due in fact to fear, I ceased use of all psychedelics 2 years ago after a disturbing experience with an overdose of a research chemical. A few nights ago I finally got together enough courage to resume my study of these fascinating drugs. This is the story of what happened and what I learned. I don't tell this for the benefit of myself, but instead in the hopes that someone else will find it interesting, maybe even find it sheds light in some way on their own experience.
My environment was my bedroom, silent and semi-dark. My intention, my reason for smoking the salvia, was selected in my conscious mind as curiosity, although many other reasons brewed beneath the surface.
I packed my water pipe 3/4ths full of extract, 10x potency. The first thing I noticed was that the taste was different. My memory of smoking the same extract 2.5 years ago was of a delicious taste, but this time it tasted quite bitter. My next surprise was I started to get the same visuals that I always get when I smoke cannabis. (This bears some explaining...for an unknown reason every time I take a big hit of cannabis I get these almost-stationary visuals in my vision. The basis is I look at the lighter and the burning herb and then that stays with me like when I look at the sun, but they always morph a little into a picture instead of random splotches.) I got this effect from Salvia this time, though I never had before.
I found these two things quite surprising and began to suspect that the extract had gone bad in its 2.5 years of storage. I realize now those two things are not very strong evidence for this conclusion, especially in light of the fact that I had carefully kept it in a dry, dark place at room temperature, but that was my thought at the time. As i continued to hold the hit in, I was trying to make sense of this. I found the cannabis-like visual effect confusing, as it was the last thing I had expected Salvia might do. The part of my mind that makes sense of what's going on wanted the salvia to be distinguished somehow from cannabis. As if in response to this thought, the stationary visuals immediately rearranged themselves into a hand with the index finger pointing straight up, a much more forceful and distinct effect than cannabis has ever given me. It was as if the Salvia was saying to me, 'Going up!'
In my uncertain state I found this instant response a little cheeky, and was unnerved by it, although this is the sort of thing I usually love. The confusion led me to try and get my bearings, but the Salvia, picking up speed now, easily outran my attempts to be master of the situation. This led to further distress on my part in the standard cycle. I began to feel environmental disturbances/distractions. The setting sun outside my window was illuminating my room very, very dimly, but I had become hypersensitive to light. Looking at the dimly lit window felt like I was staring into the sun. I learned that the recommended silent darkness approach really means darkness, total pitch black.
Heat is expensive so I often let my apartment be cold and keep warm under thick covers. But now I felt unbearably hot under my two blankets, and removed them from the bed. Immediately I felt too cold, and reclaimed one of the blankets. My pillows were irritating my neck and I resolved next time to not have any, just lie flat - for some reason the thought of removing them now didn't occur to me.
Each of these distractions passed in turn. At this point I just laid back and closed my eyes. Although I was no longer being distracted by my environment, I was not calm. I was feeling the presence of some sort of very powerful, very alien 'Other'. Some consciousness or being or Something very different from myself. This didn't strike me at the time but a good way to describe the feeling (I hope someone gets this reference) is the beginning of the song Shpongleyes by the band Shpongle. I was, unwittingly, the audience depicted in that song, and this Thing was the impending hugeness. I felt that it was coming, and I didn't know what it was, and at the time this bothered me.
In the face of this feeling, I began to feel an odd sort of panic. All, and I mean ALL, of my thoughts and desires and expectations and information gleaned from research about Salvia were gone. As if they had never existed. Not even a *poof*, I was just not in touch with them. The panic was telling me to run. I didn't know what this thing was, I didn't know I had smoked salvia, I didn't know anything about what was going on, all I knew was this huge thing is coming and I have to get away. I'm speaking literally, this unusual type of panic was actually an urge to physically run out of my apartment. Fortunately, and thank goodness, I had enough presence of mind (or had taken a low enough dose) to ask myself 'run to where?' and thus realized running would be unfeasable, and pointless anyway. One last note about the panic, it was as I said an unusual type of panic. I've thought about it and now I think the thing that sets this panic apart is detachment. The panic was not total, it was almost as if I was viewing a potential option. The panic was couched in the idea of 'this is what WOULD happen' rather than 'this is what's happening!' Like my brain was saying 'Hey, how about panicking? Look, that would be fun, want to try it?' instead of just panicking without giving me the option, as is usually the case with panic.
This desire to run came twice in a sort of loop, and after the second one it stopped. I suppose by not running I passed some sort of self-control test. The next thing that happened was something frequently reported in my research, it was the feeling of being bisected, or cut in half. The bisection was horizontal, parallel to my body as I lay. It was a strange feeling. Not painful, but a little unpleasant. I can't even begin to explain what it is or why it happens. But I do have the feeling this was another test, though I'm not sure how I could have failed it. I guess it's just a test of how well I deal with completely new and strange things happening to me. (By the way, test might sound like I'm attributing a sort of judgmental motive to the Salvia, which I certainly do not. By test I mean, not that it is testing me for inherent worth to decide whether it wants to interact with me or not, but rather testing my capacity for interacting with it, testing whether I will actually be able to stand being interacted with. In other words it was getting to know me.)
Anyway, whatever its purpose, this part came to an end. Now I no longer felt any discomfort. I was becoming interested rather than frightened. I began to see a sort of crevice. The visuals were a bit indistinct, but I had the impression of two things that were like a wall or a slab of rock, and opening between them was this crevice. In the crevice was a tentacle. This crevice-tentacle thing was an embodiment of this Other that I had been panicking about earlier. I was no longer perceiving it as threatening, but it was still BIG and ALIEN, and distinctly a Something, one particular being or thing of some sort.
The Something was asking me a question. It was asking me: 'Do you REALLY want to know?' In other words, I had offered as my intent 'curiosity,' but now that I have some idea of just how weird and powerful and alien this thing is, do I _REALLY_ want to see it? I knew I was being offered an option again: if the answer was yes, I could smoke another bowl of extract, and I knew I would be catapulted straight into this crevice-tentacle thing, straight into the mind of this Other. I considered this, and came up with a polite but firm No. This was almost enough to overload me just barely making contact, I thought, I am certainly not ready to plunge any further into this Other. Not right now at least. But, I thought, thank you for the invitation, and I meant it.
The Salvia must have been satisfied with this decision, because now the most fascinating, beautiful, and informative part of the trip began. The tentacle had emerged from the crevice I had perceived earlier. The crevice was gone and I was watching this one tentacle. The tentacle was moving in front of me and interacting with me in a series of different ways. I can only remember three, although there were many: at one point it curved upon itself, forming a circle, and rotated in front of me. At another point it was beginning somewhere in front of me and to the right, and its end was TICKLING me, sending these pleasure waves into me that made me laugh. At another point the tentacle was coming out of my own forehead.
While this tentacle action was happening, I was learning things. Allow me to give the lessons some context. Previously, I've had some trouble talking to women. To be quite frank, I was scared shitless of them. Yes, girls frighten me. Let me put it this way: I'm not the sort of guy who could walk into a bar or a party, pick a girl, and make a move on her. I'd be more likely to only talk to someone if they started talking to me first. I have far too many memories of being at a bus stop, or in a store, or before or after a class, and having the opportunity to speak to an attractive girl, and wanting to, but not having the guts to do it.
What I learned was why I have such a problem with this. The interesting thing is, it didn't come to me as information that had anything to do with my relating to women. Instead the lesson was done to illustrate my relating to Salvia. I realized that there's a certain thing, which I've come to refer to as an 'intentionality,' which can be represented in a visual model as a tentacle, just like the one I was seeing. My intentionality is my will to do anything. For example, if I want to turn on my computer, I do it by directing my intentionality into the start button. If I walk down the street I'm expressing my intentionality forward. If I start a conversation with someone I direct my intentionality into them, and when they respond they direct theirs into me. And if I want to commune with Salvia, I have to direct my intentionality, my force of will so to speak, into Salvia.
I realized, not only my inability to relate to women, but almost all my problems in life, are because I have certain encumbering, unwanted things that muddle my intentionality and impede its expression. As I recorded in my notebook right after the experience, they are: 1. guilt 2. fear 3. uncertainty and 4. fakeness paranoia. Fakeness paranoia is this odd thing I have where I'm scared, even paranoid, of being or appearing to be fake or phoney. I realized this is a completely absurd thing to be worried about, because being myself is so easy as to be effortless.
But the biggest of those was guilt, or to use a synonym, shame. I was suddenly aware that I was ashamed of a great many things about my life and myself, and that I had absolutely no good reason to be. I stood up and paced as I often do when I'm deep in thought, and actually said out loud 'What do I have that I need to be ashamed of?' and actually gave earnest thought to the question, and answered out loud, with much emphasis 'nothing! I can't think of anything!'
I began to connect this discovery with that idea of a burden we all carry, or a shell that we all live inside of. I realized that was precisely it for me. This unwanted, encumbering crap was paralyzing me. It was like I was a prisoner and I didn't even know it. The lesson came as something that was explaining how I should relate to Salvia, but I immediately realized it applied universally.
I realized that I had total freedom. I'm not exaggerating when I say the word freedom took on a new meaning for me. I realized that to express my intentionality, to reach out and start a conversation with someone, for example, is not something I need to be scared, or ashamed, or worried at all in any way about. It's not even that I'm allowed to do that, but that it's truly beautiful and important that I do it. It's my prerogative as a human being.
I now have the knowledge that, as long as I don't intend to harm (which is a given anyway for me), I have absolutely no reason to second guess myself, no reason to fear or to be ashamed of extending an intentionality to some new person or new activity. And I have acted on it. Since the experience, I've taken every opportunity I can get to start a conversation with someone. Doing so cemented this knowledge in my heart. I even asked a girl out, for the first time in my 21 years of life. She said no, but who cares? Now I am free, and it's only a matter of time before I find someone really interesting to share my life with. It is such a pleasure now, to act without fear, without shame, with a steadfast knowledge that by extending an intentionality I'm not doing anything wrong. If the person doesn't want to talk, that's fine, I won't force myself upon them, by extending my intentionality I'm only giving them the option.
It's beyond words how magically and precisely this new information fell into place, perfectly in sync with what was going on visually at the same time. To end this with some comment like 'Salvia truly is a teacher, and a very wise, powerful, and helpful one' seems like a trite understatement. It is undoubtedly the sort of statement that either bears great meaning or no meaning at all, depending on one's personal experience.
But I will say this much: as a lifelong atheist, rationalist, and scientist of the strictest sort, I consider it a great privilege and pleasure to be involved with a source of knowledge as plentiful as Salvia, despite the fact that my natural skepticism still causes me to consider the idea of talking to or learning from a plant silly. I remain dubious of the myriad rituals, spiritual customs, and seemingly arbitrary ideas some associate with Salvia, but from where I stand now the conclusion is unavoidable that there is a vastly intelligent, and awesomely powerful X associated with the plant Salvia divinorum, where X is as yet undefined. All else I can say about X is that it either has a tentacle or has the ability to manifest a tentacle, that it is HUGE in every sense of the word, and that, bizarrely, it offers very practical and useful information and assistance to human beings. That is if you use it properly. Woe to the person who wanders into any situation of life-and-death seriousness bringing with him idleness, lack of respect, or unawareness of the gravity of what's going on. That's true of psychedelics as well as other areas of life. Do your homework, take it seriously, and it is likely you will be assisted as I have been.
Salvia IS the weirdest, the scariest, the most powerful, the most helpful, the most joyful, the most complex, and the most subtle of all the drugs on the planet. I suspect it is both the most difficult to use and, if one uses it correctly, the most rewarding. For though I have had information of a similar gravity revealed to me on other substances, most notably mushrooms, never has it been done in such a way as to be so directly practical, so empowering, so easily carried over into my daily life. And this is from the merest scratching of the surface. If a threshold experience is comparable in intensity and informativeness to a 7 gram mushroom trip, what unimaginable horrors and wonders have yet to be revealed? Salvia is the deepest-reaching of all our keys to the door of the universe. It is unique.
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