Sanitas Valley, Boulder, CO

It’s been 19 months since I last took mushrooms on a hike with a friend in San Diego, CA. Apart from an acid trip, I haven’t returned to that space in the time since. Now that I’m settled in Boulder I feel I’m in a place where I can explore them again safely and comfortably.

In a recent Lex Friedman interview, John Vervake proposes an addition to the age-old ”set and setting”: he adds “sacred”. To the best of my ability I approached the empathogen with that frame of mind and intend to do so in the future. These plants are a gift and should be respected; a lesson I’ve had to learn the painful way a few times.

all the necessary things for an adventure in the mountains

On Saturday I hiked the 4 miles up the west side of Mt Sanitas and scrambled up an additional hundred feet beyond the trail to a secluded, beautiful spot with my hammock.

I brought 3.5g of Albino Psilocybe Cubensis mushrooms, some trail mix, my hydration pack, bear spray, a sweater, my laptop, a notebook, and headphones. Then I ate the mushrooms with the trail mix. In about 40 minutes time my perception of time vanished and I entered into that infinite, timeless space between worlds.

Some thoughts and reflections from my visit, written and lightly edited in the days since.

Light nausea, nearly threw up a few times during the peak. Some heaving. Mostly ok but it was really weird feeling the mushrooms in my stomach wanting to come back up, needing to force them back down.

the depth to the music. The detail of the bark on the trees. The fractals in the clouds, the beauty of every flower around me, the feeling and sound of the raindrops. It is beyond perfection.

It was surprisingly familiar to be back in mushroom space. The echoing sounds and distorted reverberations. The intense awareness of every orfice and hole in my body. Feeling every reality at once.

I was surprised how unchanged it was. If the shrooms have not changed, it must be that I have. I come back to this space with a new familiarity. More trust. More confidence.

I felt more grounded. More aware of myself. I felt more alignment. Aligned to what?

Pattern detection. Sometimes seeing people where they weren’t. Other times hearing sounds through the trees, realizing they are coming from humans. Smiling and waving, saying “hey” as a sort of greeting.

Letting people pass on the trail, or passing when people let me through. Being thanked for a small courtesy. Feeling grateful for when people returned it. Hardly understanding the words others were saying but just going with the flow.

Seeing other people figuring out directional and instructional signs, receiving the knowledge from some far-away people who made the signs across time. Signs are so helpful. The world would be chaos without them.

What are the moral implications of living in a society with rules and people who violate them? How will technology’s increase in capability and scope meet humanity’s need for privacy and dignity?

Laws only do so much. They help us share space with one another, co-exist. Yet they don’t make claims about how we should behave to one another. Nor should they.

Whose responsibility is it to teach people how to live well and harmoniously with one another? Who teaches the teachers? Who watches the watchers?

Sitting on Mt Sanitas, remembering my flight from Mexico City to Denver so clearly. Recognizing how little has changed, yet how much has changed. Was I running from somewhere or was I returning home?

Those old (speech? thought? perception?) patterns came up. I’d witnessed them before, on my darkest and deepest trip on 7g right before covid. A mix of russian and english, phrases and numbers.

It was not as frightening today. I felt its presence, but I made more peace with it. A recurring character in my mind, perhaps.

I’m not sure I would call it a darkness. More like my pre-language brain trying to express something. Seeing a pattern in the world. Punishment and forgiveness. Good and evil. Taking another’s love for granted, them loving us in return regardless.

Sacrifices, selflessness, and unpayable debts.

Who takes care of the sick, the old, the poor? As we learn to take care of each other in a small scale, how can we take care of others on a broader one? How do we build just systems, ones that uplift instead of oppress?

Broken people come to these systems, because where else can they go? People didn’t ask to be born. Yet they need food, shelter, clothing, an attentive ear, love. How to love all without giving all of oneself up?

Being up there, alone. My music box playing music, water nearby, laying in a hammock. Feeling the age of that space. The timelessness. Laughing and crying.

Crying at how unfair the world is, at how many people don’t have safety. Laughing at the irony of wanting to see behind the veil, only to see myself on the other side.

What are we going to do about it? Walking down the mountain, not having the answers, just wanting to lie down and hide from the world. Trying not to take for granted the very fact I have those things; food, clean water, a place to rest.

The burdens we carry. We have to carry our own shit. It’s hard enough to live life; existence is hard. To be in a place to carry other’s burdens, that is something to aim for. Is that what being a parent is? How do we give people support and love even when they don’t know how to accept it?

Coordination. Resources. Resources for emergence. How to communicate with another? What we’re building, Relational. We seem to be circling around something very special.

Something we can’t totally put to words but we believe is there: emergence and coordination through art and play, the ability to create together, to decide and act together.

Bringing something to life through the act of participation in community.

Semaphores. Thumbs up and thumbs down. Consent and invitation and feedback. Consistency. Patterns of behavior. Honesty; keeping one’s word, speaking truth even when it hurts.

Not being able to just sit around. Inaction being an action. So many hurt people in the world, not knowing how to heal themselves, how to communicate and ask for help. So much of communication is being in a place of knowing and loving oneself, having the capacity to love others.

Laying down on the grass at the park after the hike. Listening to music. Being overwhelmed by the contrast of the sky and the leaves, the fractals everywhere, beautiful emergent patterns. Beauty in the everyday survival and existence of something as ordinary as a tree.

Infinite complexity. Is there a designer to this? Can we design this? Is nature the designer? Evolution? Who designed the contrast of the greens against the blues?

Looked at my chewed up nails. Thanked my digits for helping me take care of all the things in life. Promised them, verbally, I’d take care of them and stop chewing on them.

Running into Sabine in the hallway. Giving her a hug. Thanking her for being an amazing friend and neighbor.

Coming into my home. Seeing the pruned basil plant, the things scattered over the counter, just as I’d left them. Going into the shower, bringing another candle in.

Not knowing whether I wanted to lay or stand or shit or piss. But being grateful for all the options. Laying on the bed after the shower, picking up my phone, being ready and willing to reconnect with the world.

Opening my journal and pressing previous day over and over and over again, watching the screen change. A deep gratitude for my writing practice. Seeing the evolution of the morning ritual to little headers from todo items to prose, just day after day after day of coming to a space and letting my thoughts out. Seeing myself responding to myself, listening to my needs and adjusting accordingly.

Bike ride with Sabine was absolutely gorgeous. The flowers along the path, the colors of the sky reflecting on the water, the wind of the chilly autumn air. It was perfection.

Smiles are free!

Guy driving by with his jeep honking at me with the peace sign, as I’m wearing my favorite shirt and drinking La Croix. He knew for sure.

Maybe what I had yesterday was a reminder of the bigger picture; the longer-term perspective. A perspective that can’t help but fill me with wonder and confidence and the faith for a brighter future for humanity. The recognition that small things don’t really matter. That things are going to be ok.

A reminder that most important thing is the love we have for ourselves and for each other.

Back home and showered