Entheogens aren’t for everyone, especially not as a dedicated path. Even though I think everyone can potentially benefit from them I usually try to dissuade folks because if you’ve got unresolved shit it’s gonna get brought up to the surface and frankly a lot of folks aren’t prepared for dealing with that so directly – which is where bad trips often come from.
Of course, that’s when an experienced guide can be helpful – walking you through it when it gets intense and helping to ease the landing when you come back down. More than that, the guide has built up a relationship with the spirit in the plant so can usually talk to it and help negotiate the terms of the trip. Consequently I’m not as experienced as a lot of psychonauts since I’ve worked on building up that kind of relationship with my plant-allies.
I work fairly closely with tobacco, marijuana, amanita muscaria, psilocybin and to a much lesser extent salvia divinorum. Beyond that I’ve tried nymphaia cirulea, kinnikinnick, a couple other mushrooms and herbal mixtures, LSD and one of those alphabet soup designer chemical compounds.
I won’t try anything harder or that isn’t a psychoactive and the experience with the alphabet soup swore me off all but the natural stuff. And even there I tend to stick to traditionally Euroasian substances – there’s a couple from Mexico and South America I’d like to try but 1) you’re dealing with a very different type of spirit and 2) most of the experiences begin with massive vomiting and/or explosive diarrhea and there’s a limit to how much I’m going to get out of a trip while hunched over a toilet, ya know?
I cannot stress these three words enough: set and setting. Set and setting. Set and setting.
They’re everything. Basically what it means is before you go into any potentially intense experience – be it drugs, ritual, art or whathaveyou – pay attention to your surroundings and your mental state. This includes things like who’s around you, your sensorium (visuals, tactile, auditory, even scents) and where your head is at. Are you calm, reverent, focused and got all of your shit more or less under control? (And know what areas you don’t.) Do you know what you’re trying to accomplish and hope to get out of the experience (while remaining flexible and open to other things coming up) before going in? Do you have any ritual accoutrements or objects of entertainment easily accessible so you have to try and search for them while altered? Paying attention to this stuff ahead of time contributes hugely to the success or failure of any undertaking.