The psychedelic experiences consists of three distinct stages: the onset of the drug (also called the “come-up”), the an extended period of peak intensity, and the come-down from the peak. Depending of what psychedelic drug has been taken, as well as the method of the dosage, the exact timing of these stages will vary.
Onset of effects
Once you have taken the drug, make any final preparations for the experience: set up your any multimedia playlists (using digital interfaces is much more confusing on psychedelics), throw down blankets and pillows, set out food, change into comfortable clothes, etc. Common bodily and mental symptoms during the come-up include:
- feeling of clamminess or vasoconstriction (constriction of blood vessels)
- nausea, rising or churning of the gut, feeling of butterflies in stomach
- vomiting for psychedelics that are more difficult to digest — especially ayahuasca, peyote, LSA, as to a lesser degree mushrooms (which some people have a harder time digesting)
- anxiety or nervousness in anticipation until the primary effects set on
- minor tremors, shaking, or electrical sensations in the nerves
Since these symptoms are to be expected, keep yourself comfortable and entertained, and mindfully note the onset of physical and mental effects.
Preparing for peak effects: intent & letting go
As with many spiritual practices, many psychonauts find it useful to set a personal intent to while initiating a trip. This is not necessarily an expectation of how the trip will go, which we have cautioned against above, but rather a personal mantra or reassurance that the psychedelic journey will be productive, meaningful, and enjoyable. Some suggestions are provided below:
- I am prepared to grow and change into a happier person
- I am prepared to love myself in whatever ways are necessary
- The more good I can exert, the more good will come to me
- I am prepared to be my best person moving forward, the past cannot limit me
- Growing and changing is exciting, even if it means moving through pain
- When one door in my life closes, another one will open
If you have taken a moderate or high dose of psychedelics, and are aiming for an ego-transforming or trauma-healing trip, it is suggested that you prepare yourself to let the experience flow and not cling to any distracting thoughts of daily life. Under the influence of psychedelics, your mind will have the power to rearrange itself in a more productive and organized arrangement; in order to allow this to happen, prepare yourself but letting go of attachments to the things that your worry about or cling to:
- let go of your expectations of psychedelic therapy
- let go of social drama, professional worries, fears, addictions
- do not become obsessed with any new effect of the psychedelic drug that you notice: enjoy them, notice them happening, allow them come and go
- let go of attachments to your identity and beliefs, allow yourself simply to exist as you are
- allow yourself to comfortably notice changes in the flow of time, the appearance of your environment, or an expanded sense of universal dimensionality
Guidance in therapy sessions
In order to delve into an experience as much as possible, it is recommended that during therapeutic sessions the tripper spends their peak laying down, wearing a blindfold (which allows the user to delve into closed-eye visuals) or viewing pre-selected media or scenery, and being guided either by a sitter or through headphones. They may listen to spoken word to guide the session, experience a live performance, or listen to pre-selected music. Some recommended recordings of guided sessions are provided below. These can be listened to through headphones, or read aloud. Suggestions are provided on our pages Visuals, Music & Listening, and Therapy Guidance.
During the peak of a medium to high-dosed psychedelic experience, you may witness any number of incredible things:
- you may be engulfed in a brilliant universal light, dissolving your ego
- you may be transported down to the cellular level examining your internal processes in fantastic array
- you may meet God, gods, or any number of unfamiliar entities and civilizations they appear to inhabit
- you may experience the mental sensations of death (which cannot be easily retold), rebirth; alternatively, you may believe yourself to be seeing elements of your own past lives
- you may feel that your are perceiving spacetime as a continuum, or that the significance of time is highly arbitrary
Whatever happens, be sure of this: these states are temporary, and you will return. Take the experiences are informative lessons that, successfully integrated, will help your rearrange patterns of thought and behavior. Ego death, which is a vague term that tends to be used in a variety of ways, can take many different forms:
- a feeling of oneness with the universe, that all consciousnesses is the same singular entity
- the sense that your ego has dissipated, leaving you in a dissociated mindset that feels like a “blank slate”, or like you have just woken up from a dream and are trying to remember who you are
- the dissolution of your expectations and sense of identity, which are then replaced by other factors such as genetic realizations, cosmic influences, creative associations, etc
- sensing a telepathic connection with someone else or a specific group of others, and feeling you are one collective consciousness
In the presence of a safe and loving environment, this period of this trip will allow the body to make use of the unique psychedelic state and re-organize in healing and defragmenting ways. Because each person who trips comes from a different genetic, neurological, and biographical lineage, no two peak experiences will be exactly the same. Do not expect to return to the same peak experience twice — they will vary.
Come-down from peak and plateau
After the peak experience, the effects will taper off and plateau. Visual hallucinations will persist for several hours after the peak, with a reduction in body-load and change in headspace. This is the longest period of the trip, during which one might enjoy complementary therapies such as Art Therapy, appreciating nature, watching a movie, or socializing with the tripsitting or anyone else who may be participating in the session.