Psychedelics and the Transpersonal State: Preparation & Integration
Psychedelic substances can induce in users a rare and precious transpersonal state of reality. The transpersonal realm is a direct experience of spiritual dimensions within non-ordinary states of consciousness, surpassing reality perceived in everyday consciousness and transcending all dimensions of time and space. Despite the common dismissive interpretation of transpersonal experiences by modern science, studies show that not only do they contain valuable, authenticated information about other realms of existence, but according to the great Dr. Stan Grof - a pioneer psychedelic researcher, the father of Transpersonal Psychology, and a Czech psychiatrist - they are ontologically real. Meaning, that if these otherworldly transpersonal states, inexplicable miracles and all, are fully experienced as a type of reality by various individuals - even if for a short while, and whether drug-induced or not - these states and visions are, in fact, real (and what's reality anyway? the quintessential philosophical question that we will likely mull over until the end of time. Will let others figure this one out, for me it's back to this reality for now).
Some of the common characteristics of transpersonal states:
• Visits to mystical and spiritual realms
• Awareness of transcending conventional time and space properties
• An out of body experience
• A sense of ego dissolution, transcendence beyond ego-identity
• Psychic or paranormal encounters
• Temporary access to greater power
• Encounters with archetypal symbols, beings and creatures
• Realizations and dreams of past and/or future life incarnations
• Visits to other dimensions of “reality”
• Experiencing death and/or re-living of the birth process
• Sense of bliss and sacredness
• Deep feelings of gratitude, peace and love
• Feelings of interconnectedness with all things
• Intuitive understanding of universal truths and knowledge
• Experiencing singularity with God and a cosmic unity
• Witnessing of miracles
It's interesting that though these states are generally regarded as delusional by science and medicine culture, and by persons who have not experienced psychedelic states - many users of psychedelic substances report to have experienced these characteristics and to visit the same remote places, encounter the same realms, dimensions and beings that other users have encountered in their own private journeys into the depth of consciousness! Transpersonal psychology differentiates between the individual consciousness to the collective consciousness - the pool of experiences, memories, dreams, realizations and wisdom we all contribute to and share as sentient beings throughout the time of our existence as forms of life. It connects us as a species and serves a reminder that indeed, we are not at all separate but a singular spirit. Visiting the same transpersonal dimensions can be one way that we tap into the collective consciousness. Transpersonal characteristics in psychedelic states can also be largely responsible for the reasons behind why so many individuals consider psychedelic journeys to be among the most spiritual experiences of their lives - if not the single most spiritual. Walter Pahnke’s Good Friday Experiment exemplified this in a curious way. As a result, these individuals tend to develop an affinity for continuous spiritual inquiry well after the psychedelic state has diminished.
Still, due to the foreign nature, magnitude and potential vastness of the transpersonal state, even the experienced psychonaut might be apt to feelings of confusion, perplexity, dismemberment, fear and anxiety – both while in the ‘other’ state and once back in the default state of everyday consciousness (not using the word ‘normal’ here!). Thus, these experiences can be extremely difficult to integrate into ordinary states of consciousness. However, though while under the influence of psychedelic substances ‘surrender’ is a virtue, as conscious, responsible and self-sufficient creators of the psychedelic experience users have a high level of agency over the way they can prepare to meet transpersonal states, and how they safely integrate these states in the aftermath.
Preparation & Integration of Transpersonal Psychedelic States
One way to prepare in order to minimize any potential risks is to learn a psychedelic space navigation skill set before engaging with psychedelic substances. A navigation skill set can provide real-time solutions for the psychonaut to keep centered and on track while exploring uncharted territories such as transpersonal states. It provides more power and control of depth and breadth of the psychedelic journey, its outcome and ultimately the way it affects the life and destiny of the user. It allows one to surrender to the vastness of the ocean (or the cosmos - choose your battle) but to continue working to stir your ship through the journey until landing back on solid ground. Take a deep breath to celebrate safety, but not for too long - the work doesn’t end here! Time to mindfully and diligently continue the effort in the integration phase, where the reflection, processing, interpretation, meaning ascription, goal-setting, and practice-to-mastery happen.
Spirituality, expansiveness, connection to a higher self, singularity, universal truths, and God are some of the themes that typically come up in transpersonal integration. Another common hit: the ineffability factor. How can one begin to describe the beauty and marvel of being One with the universe and realizing that you, in fact, are God in the flesh? (or God in drag, according to spiritual teacher Baba Ram Dass). To start organizing the visions, it can be useful to ask yourself some questions:
· What was my connection with the Transpersonal realm? Was it natural and familiar, or foreign?
· How did I feel about being there? Was there confusion, fear, pain, joy, excitement, bliss?
· How do I feel about it now, as I recall my experience?
· What was the purpose to the journey? How does it relate to my life? What is my own sense of purpose?
· How do I view the collective human experience? How do I view my own human experience?
· How do I see myself as part of society/the collective?
· What is my role in the world?
· How do I feel about the concept of God/Singularity now? How did I feel about it before the journey?
· What is my level of trust in the medicine (psychedelic substance), in others, in life? What is the level of trust in myself?
· How do I feel about nature?
· What did I learn learn about my spirit?
· Why do I wish to explore consciousness?
Journaling about these questions periodically will provide a perspective on the ways you are growing and evolving psychologically and spiritually. If coherency in thought is challenging, make space to interact with your expanded psyche through play without judgement or expectation:
· Word association/freestyle writing
· Drawing mandalas, sand play
· Drumming/shaker/playing music
· Organic physical movement/ecstatic dance
· Hiking in nature
· Voice play/exploration
· Energy work
It helps to remember that psychedelic integration, particularly of the transpersonal realm, is not bound to the laws of time. Practicing integration mindfully and consistently even when the goals are unclear and benefits not immediately apparent, along with staying present to forthcoming situations and interactions throughout your day so you can merge your visions with your reality, will ultimately yield rewarding and sustainable results across all areas of your life and your overall well-being. And witnessing miracles will eventually become a daily practice of its own.