Thursday, September 30, 2010

Trip Report #1: Psilocybin + EEG Biofeedback

Trip Report

2.3gm Psilocybe Cubensis fungi + EEG Biofeedback

I started with some trepidation.  It had been a long time since I had tripped, but somehow, it was just time.  I had made all the preparations, and yet in a way it felt arbitrary, like I just had to do it.

I started at 4pm.  I took some GABA* and Theanine* at the same time, substances that are thought to be somewhat calming and alpha producing.  Had never taken fungi by capsules before.  I knew capsules are supposed to take longer to hit, but it was slower than I anticipated.  I was killing time reading a Buddhist book and it became slightly difficult to read, mainly I was just easily distracted.  I decided I might as well go ahead and get started with the biofeedback and began at 4:35.

The feedback design had gone thru a lot of changes over the months, but ended up being pretty much a pure alpha wave trainer, and somewhat similar in feel to a typical alpha theta design.  Electrodes were at C3 & C4, I figured this was a good mid-brain location, covering both hemispheres.  Continuous proportional feedback on alpha as well as discrete feedback as a reward for hitting new relative highs.  All over a background of surf whose volume varied with a slow average of alpha minus beta.  I darkened the room, settled into my zero gravity chair, and closed my eyes.

Over time it finally started coming on.  It was so slow compared to my normal experiences of eating mushrooms that I was not expecting much.  But it continued to come on, and on.  Once it reached full intensity, it was perhaps more than expected.  There was probably an hour or so of just wonderful stuff that was like making love to god or something.  Hard to put into words.  Just so, so wonderful, ecstatic.  I would find myself grinning so wide, absolutely ear to ear with tears running down my cheeks.  A few moments of oceanic oneness, or very close.  A fair amount of light was generated within my closed eye visual field, although there was no concrete visuals at this time (like the orange and yellow op moire checkerboard I had experienced in the past).

My feeling during this time was that I wanted to share it with everybody - everybody should do this!  I felt so much love!  During these times the discrete feedback sounds, along with the surf, made for a truly heavenly choir.

Later, the ride became a bit rockier, but somehow I was prepared.  I did have to work a bit to constantly relax and let go, go with the flow.  Throughout the entire evening the "I" was very much present and clear, with a lot of commentary, almost too much at times.  But it was also functioning very usefully during this more challenging period as an internal coach.

As a result, I think I really understand how to trip now.  The attitude that whatever comes up is okay, to meet everything with open arms and full acceptance, will truly get you through anything.  All the old hippie stuff about going with the flow, I knew all that stuff, but now I feel that I really know it at a deeper level.  I was always letting go of tension and resistance, constantly surfing the leading edge of what had to be let go of next.  I felt like I learned a lot.

During this part I was being shown aspects of both myself and the world that I was not fully okay with, and I had to just fully accept it all.  I viewed it with a certain determination, like it was a game, and I wasn't going to let this thing take me down, and found that a sense of bemused wonder was very useful.  I constantly remarked to myself "so many flavors!"  Not just the good flavors, but the so-called "bad" ones as well.

For a period of time I was seeing/feeling imagery of people of various types, again, often types that maybe I was not so aligned with or wanted to resist, but I learned that I had to see them all as aspects of myself, and accept them as expressions of the same thing.

At some point, I'm not entirely sure, I grabbed my light and sound machine and spent a couple of minutes trying to get it to work, looking to add some photic stimulation.  I briefly tried a fixed alpha frequency, but this was not really doing it.  A few more minutes and I managed to get a setting where the unit would meander through a range of frequencies, always changing, which was very effective.

When I first turned on the light unit the imagery became very orderly and architectural.  The first major image made a memorable impression - it was the interior of a kind of psychedelic mosque with light brown tiles.

At times, the imagery that the light and sound unit imposed was too structured and cold, I would have preferred something more organic.  Also would have been nice to have more colors (I'll bet the Laxman unit would be awesome for this), yet from time to time the colors did change.  From time to time I would take the glasses off, then put them on later as needed.

It is literally staggering the difference that lying down and closing your eyes makes.  I had never tripped this way before.  Around 9:00 after another bathroom break I was feeling relatively capable, but once I lay down with the eyes closed and the feedback, the next thing I knew I was going through one of those incredible overwhelming euphoric rushes again.  Around 9:45 I hadn't had a rush in a while, so I got up for good and detached from the feedback.  Just over 5 hours of continuous alpha feedback.

I think the feedback was key.  It was very lined up with what was happening in my experience, and it felt like having an "expert guide," my personal alpha guide.  There were some moments when I could have stood to have a bit more variation in the auditory feedback environment, like some music, but it was fine, really.  I'm not sure ultimately that music would be better.  Sometimes that alpha tone was just the friendliest, most intimate thing in the world.  And the surf sound would sometimes give a nice "day at the beach" kind of vibe.

All in all, probably my best trip ever.

*In doing some reading I discovered one mention that Theanine *may* be an MAO inhibitor which could potentiate effects, but realistically I couldn't find any really solid information on that.  I see that it often seems to show up on web pages that happen to mention other substances as being MAO inhibitors.  On the contrary, one experienced psychonaut commented that it actually blunted the effects of psychedelics and was useful for coming down from a trip.  So either way, I think that one is out of the mix, at least pre-trip.

As to GABA, not a lot can pass the blood-brain barrier, so that may be a waste.  On the other hand, some can pass in certain areas.  James Austin mentions GABA as possibly inhibiting the egocentric view.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

James Austin on Attention

From the Insight Journal, Austin looks at egocentric (dualistic) vs. allocentric (nondual) attention and postulates a path through the temporal lobes for nondual attention, also suggesting a role for GABA in inhibiting the egocentric view.

Theta Coherence in Meditation

Theta (6.5-8.0 Hz) coherence was increased in a case study of a Chan Buddhist meditator reported by Lehmann et al.  Gamma coherence generally decreased.  I found it interesting that they only measured during the first 3 minutes of meditation.  I'd be inclined to give the subject a few minutes to get deeper.