This post may very well make some of you think I’m a total wacko. Hopefully by the end you’ll realize I’m 100% sane, perhaps more sane than I’ve ever been.
This past Friday I took part in something called a ‘deep dive’. In a nutshell, it was a guided experience using powerful psychedelic medicine, with 11 friends and strangers. It was one of the most profound and beautiful experiences of my life.
Before you overreact or think I’m crazy, know this:
-The entire experience, which took place over the course of approximately 9 hours, was done under the supervision of a doctor - a leading practitioner of psychedelic therapy - and another facilitator, both of whom are extremely experienced with this type of work
-Most of the medicines were plant-based (we took a cocktail of different substances; the exact substances and amounts were kept from us to avoid pre-conceived notions and prejudices clouding our experience)
-Dosages were very carefully controlled and tailored to our weight, medical history, and other factors
-The doctor and practitioner have been carefully fine-tuning dosages for more than 2 years, in some cases to the microgram
-Research into therapeutic uses of psychoactive substances is currently one of the richest fields of psychiatric research, and some therapies are proving to be among the most powerful therapies ever devised
This group was carefully curated by a friend, with twelve of us accepting, several weeks ago, an invite to take part in the session. It took place in a beautiful home in a spectacular environment (as any practitioner will tell you, set and setting - i.e. your mindset and the environment the experience takes place in - are extremely important for facilitating useful and uplifting journeys.)
The first two hours were spent discussing the important details of the day, addressing concerns, receiving our eye masks (we did the experience as a group, but each in our private location with mask and headphones on), downloading the experience playlist, providing medical information, and taking a ‘baseline’ medication whose intended effect was to relax us and put us in the right state for the deep dive.
Then we were called up to the facilitators and given our dosages in pill form; recipients received different pills based on their ideal dosage and desired depth of experience. We were given instructions to notify the facilitators once we started to feel the effects.
After about 15 minutes, I started to feel the medication kick in and was then guided up to my location (a comfortable couch on the 2nd floor). I laid down and put the mask on over my eyes, put the headphones on over my ears, and hit play on the playlist.
I relaxed into the experience; after about 5 minutes I felt a huge whoosh come over me as the medicine kicked in. At first it was overwhelming, unlike anything I’d experienced before on psychedelics (I have experience, mostly in my 20s, with psilocybin and LSD).
Fear took over and my every instinct was to rip off the mask and headphones; in hindsight, this was the experience of my ego dissolving and it was terrifying. But I remembered the instruction to surrender to the experience and not run away from the journey. For a minute or more a fierce battle played out between my ego's instincts of self-preservation and my desire to go deep into the experience; I stayed with it and kept the mask and headphones on.
Gradually the fear abated and I began to relax into the experience. Over the course of a few minutes I began to experience a feeling of my body dissolving. The music began taking me into other places. Bits of my past flashed by in visions, both visual and auditory.
After a few minutes I began to feel a knot forming in my intestines; it soon grew to feel like a softball lodged in the pit of my stomach. My body seemed to want to purge this ball and I began to have mild convulsions and heaving.
Visions from my past and my family’s past began to materialize; I found myself - as vividly as I’ve ever experienced anything - at a place from my past, witness to a traumatic event whose details I won’t divulge here. I witnessed the people involved and felt the pain, viscerally, in the pit of my stomach.
Yet partnered with the pain was a deep sense of love and forgiveness. For a minute, or maybe a few seconds, or maybe an hour (time became very elastic) I worked through this battle between pain and love, and then this ‘ball’ of pain came up through my throat and out my mouth and I felt bliss like I’ve never felt before.
As I released the pain, I felt waves of joy wash over me in a way and depth that I’ve never experienced. My ego felt completely stripped away and I was connected to everything and everyone - the non-duality (I and the universe are no longer separate) that so many people experience with this type of treatment.
It would be somewhat pointless to try to describe this feeling; suffice to say that almost every single person who took part in the experience felt something similar. What I can say is that I’ve never felt anything quite so deeply. Whether it was simply a hallucination and the powerful release of chemicals into my brain, or a revealing of my true nature and connection to ‘one-ness’ I can’t say. I know that it felt incredibly real at the time and that I felt a powerful truth was being revealed to me.
Although time became a very nebulous and elastic concept during my deep dive, I know the whole experience (with mask and headphones on) lasted approximately 4 hours, based on the time when I removed my mask and phones. During that time I cycled through frequent visions, often guided by the music playing in my ears.
2 frequent refrains that came up during my journeys were the phrases ‘it doesn’t matter’ and ‘you are not alone’, as I cycled through the various concerns and anxieties that, in my daily life, take me out of the present. It was a visceral message that I am not alone, and a reminder that the stuff I worry about on a daily basis really doesn’t matter.
I’ve never been a particularly religious person (I was raised Catholic but never really accepted the faith) and I’ve always liked to think of myself as a ‘spiritual’ person, but I never really understood what that meant until this experience.
If I were to sum up the experience with a phrase, it would be along the lines of ‘I met God’ or perhaps ‘God met me' - and God was not a bearded guy in the sky but rather the true essence of the universe, of which I was a part. This was a feeling shared by most of the other participants, and it was both blissful and extremely comforting.
(yes, I know those words sound strange, but once you experience it it makes perfect sense.)
After I removed the mask and headphones, I chatted with two of my fellow ‘divers' on a neighbouring couch. I felt connected to them like I’d never felt connected to other humans, on a level deeper than any of us had ever experienced. We then joined a few people who were walking around outside. All of us shared the same feeling of connection and deep love; all of us felt deeply and intimately connected to each other after this experience.
Most of the participants had brought some level of familiarity with psychedelics to the experience, but afterwards we all agreed that what we had just partaken in was orders of magnitude different than anything we’d ever experienced, both in quality and depth. Comparing this to a mushroom trip with friends is a comparison between two totally different experiences: one is outwardly-focused and non-intentional (for the most part), the other is deeply inward, intentional and profound.
I realize all of this sounds somewhat crazy to someone who has never taken part in this type of experience, and especially crazy to someone who has never had any experience whatsoever with psychedelics. I myself went into it with a degree of skepticism - and anxiety.
Yet the evidence is mounting that psychedelic therapy - both for the mentally ill and for the otherwise healthy - is one of the most powerful modalities of psychiatric treatment ever devised. Every manner of drug or plant, from LSD to psilocybin to MDMA to more exotic medicines such as iboga or ayahuasca (the facilitators work with 30 different plant-based medicines), is currently being studied, some in stage-3 clinical trials that are moving treatment toward federal approval.
Overall, the research is showing that psychedelic therapy, in the context of carefully controlled clinical trials, is incredibly effective in treating a wide range of illnesses; the success rates in treating anxiety and PTSD in particular are through the roof, with some trials showing treatment success rates as high as 80% from a single treatment.
These are not hippies dropping acid in the desert - these are professionals doing research and facilitation under careful supervision and following strict and safe protocols.
It’s now been 4 days since my deep dive. I’m back fully in my day-to-day experience as a father, husband, entrepreneur, citizen, and all of the other identities that my ego self attaches to.
To be honest, I’m struggling to reconcile last Friday's blissful metaphysical experience of oneness/non-duality with my everyday self. In some ways nothing has changed, and in others everything has changed.
For starters, I feel much more open to a wide range of emotions. The other day I was walking in the rain to pick up my daughter and a wave of simultaneous sadness and joy washed over me: sadness that my daughter is growing up so quickly and won’t be a regular part of my life for very long; joy that I have these years to spend with her and that we are inextricably and beautifully connected on many levels.
I’ve put on my headphones a few times since Friday, listening to the playlist that guided my journey; dropping into that musical space takes me back to that feeling of connection and provides a great deal of comfort and relaxation.
Several of us have expressed the desire to do the experience again, sooner rather than later; while I know that my work has only just begun, I also know that this type of work is not to be taken lightly or abused, and the actual ‘work’ is to integrate the experience and its lessons into my daily life - not just jump right back in to another dive in the pursuit of that feeling of bliss.
My hope is that this experience and this work will make me a much more compassionate human being, more able to connect with others, and more deeply aligned in my professional and personal life. If my first foray into this world is any guide, I think this type of experience represents the most powerful way known to humanity to achieve those goals.
Please feel free to message me privately if you want to discuss further, or feel free to comment below with your thoughts or questions.
PLEASE NOTE: PSYCHEDELIC THERAPY IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. IF YOU CHOOSE TO EXPLORE THIS TYPE OF WORK, PLEASE DO IT IN THE CARE OF PROFESSIONALS.
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