Keep the mind open
Our psychedelic journey can help us return to a more curious, childlike state. Coming to terms with how much we don't know can inspire us to learn more about ourselves and the world. As Mahatma Gandhi says, "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." When we approach life with a beginner's mind, possibilities and opportunities abound.
The ultimate aim of meditation is to develop awareness, calm, and insight. To practice meditation means to be present with feelings, thoughts, and breath without attachment, judgment, or reaction.
Thich Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese Zen master, says, "Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor." Meditation trains us to find solace not in temporary pleasures but in the peace, joy, and freedom that arises from letting go and abiding in the present moment.
Meditation is often encouraged as a core practice for enlightenment or self-realization. It can simultaneously elevate individual and collective consciousness. The practice may also reduce stress, anxiety, depression, or pain and increase peace, perception, self-concept, and well-being.
Integrating a regular practice (a few minutes a day) into one's daily life rather than practicing in spurts (two-hour sessions once a month) is best. Consistency leads to the best results and can help us adapt to the process more seamlessly.
If you haven't already, starting a meditation practice as soon as possible is wise. The practice trains one to observe one's experience. It loosens the grip of the ego and conscious mind over the whole personality. It trains one to sit with the uncomfortable and the unknown and to accept each experience as it is and not how one wants it to be. These attitudes are valuable to cultivate before, during, and after the psychedelic experience, often bringing up uncomfortable and unpalatable truths.
Meditation can also prevent psychosomatic symptoms of resistance, such as nausea or panic attacks, and provide a smoother experience. Long-term meditation increases activity in the prefrontal cortex, meaning the conscious mind will be more likely to remember the experience and understand how to make sensible decisions afterward.
Anybody can practice meditation regardless of one's beliefs. Pema Chodron remarks, "Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we're doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we're doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves." The practice isn't about becoming other than what we are. Instead, it's about being content and open-minded.
Some people think meditation is about stopping or getting rid of thoughts. However, it's more about accepting and opening to whatever arises. Can we open to and feel even the resistance?
As you can imagine, there are countless meditation techniques and themes. Some examples of methods are body scan (Vipassana), breath awareness, and loving-kindness meditation. Meditation can be practiced alone or in a group, in silence or with audio guidance.
Trying different methods and feeling what suits you best can be helpful. Once you find a teacher or technique you resonate with, it's advisable to stick with this one for some time instead of continually searching for a "better" one.
Having a teacher or guide—either in-person or through different technological means—instruct us when we are starting is essential. This person can help us avoid common pitfalls and accelerate our progress. As the Buddha teaches, "Spiritual friendship is not half the spiritual life. It's the entire spiritual life!"
The Dhammapada states:
"If you find a wise person
Who points out your faults and corrects you,
You should follow such a sage
As you would a revealer of treasures.
It is better, never worse
To follow such a sage."
Here are a few resources you may find helpful as you start your exploration, along with a basic guide:
Dhamma -- free 10-day Vipassana meditation retreats around the world
Headspace -- online guided meditation resources via website and mobile app
Insight Timer -- smartphone app and online community for meditation
Waking Up -- smartphone app with meditation course by Sam Harris and lessons from great thinkers
We may encounter beings, insights, or messages on our journey that spark a desire to dive into various topics such as history, ecology, religion, philosophy, politics, rituals, symbolism, magick, plant medicine, therapy, psychology, or indigenous cultures.
We may feel moved to read books, watch movies, listen to podcasts, attend workshops, or enroll in courses. We can learn through various forms of expression: cooking, dancing, painting, singing, or writing. There are many ways to expand knowledge about our interests and passions.
A commitment to lifelong learning trains the mind to be open, flexible, and curious. It allows us to question our assumptions and consider others' perspectives. By educating ourselves, we fulfill a natural desire to grow and expand our understanding. Learning can bring joy and play into our lives while increasing self-motivation and self-confidence by giving us new skills and knowledge. We are free to experiment with our learning process; there is no right or wrong.
A few questions we may want to ask ourselves as we explore what and how we want to learn:
By being resourceful, we can become highly educated quickly at minimal cost. Here is a list of 20 places to educate ourselves online for free.
Our minds respond to visual stimulation, so imagining and creating the images of our desired lifestyle allows us to move our lives in a positive direction. Visualization works; successful people in every field use various visualization techniques to bring their ideas and intentions to fruition. Where attention and intention flow, energy goes.
A vision board is a collage of words and images that inspires us to be happy, think bigger, and feel motivated and connected. This collection represents our goals, dreams, and wholesome feelings we wish to cultivate. When we give the subconscious mind reminders of our bigger vision, the mind looks for ways to bring the vision to fruition. In essence, the vision board allows us to practice visualization every time we look at or think about it.
When we see our dreams in front of us, we become more motivated to do the things we need to manifest them. Focusing on the highest vision can help us think bigger and feel connected to that which is greater than ourselves. Seeing our goals in front of us can help us align our thoughts and actions with our deepest desires.
There are many ways to create a vision board. We can use magazine cutouts, favorite quotes, drawings, and words. Our vision board should help us feel good about ourselves and our life direction.
Emotions are vibrational energy that activates the Law of Attraction. Committing our emotional focus on our dreams, even when they feel out of reach, can help us feel like we have already achieved them.
The book The Secret affirms, "The law of attraction is forming your entire life experience, and it is doing that through your thoughts. When you are visualizing, you are emitting a powerful frequency out into the Universe."
As we practice training our body and mind to be joyful and believe in ourselves and our goals no matter what, we realize our dreams are more attainable than we thought. We become happier and healthier by allowing a vision board to shift our mindset to be more positive and open to possibilities.