By now, it should be clear that psychedelics aren’t only for the cool kids. Growing research shows that psilocybin, the psychoactive substance in “magic” mushrooms, can help relieve depression. (Ketamine, too.) Mushrooms have also been used to help terminal patients come to terms with death. On a fundamental level, ingesting a psychedelic and looking around your own mind can be a form of self-love: You may find yourself taken with the beauty and ingenuity of the imagery you see and then feel a surge of pride when you realize, “Hey, I’m making all this stuff myself!”
In short, the psychedelics revolution underway has revised the cliche of a bunch of hippies dropping acid at parties and freaking out. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that—we probably wouldn’t be where we are today without the brave internal explorers who came before us!) Psychedelics can have a beneficial and long-lasting impact on a user’s life, depending on how they are approached. These drugs are mighty and should be handled with strict care for the sake of avoiding bad trips (and they certainly aren’t for everybody, including people with different kinds of mental health conditions, so do your research before going anywhere near them). The concept of set and setting—the idea popularized by LSD evangelist Timothy Leary that the proper mindset and environment are crucial to a good trip—is as true now as it was in the ‘60s. Below are some suggestions that will hopefully facilitate a more comfortable and enlightening psychedelic experience for you or for a curious friend you’d like to support in their journey. We can’t tell you how to procure your supply, but we can tell you what to do with yourself before and after you have it.
How To Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan
How To Change Your Mind laid crucial groundwork for the current psychedelic profusion. Michael Pollan’s 2019 exploration of the history, philosophy, and practical usage of psychedelics demystifies its subject just enough to make them approachable, without taking away any of their magic. (As if Pollan even could if he tried!) But it’s hardly the only key text. Brian C. Muraresku’s 2020 book The Immortality Key takes readers on a search for the truth of whether the Catholic sacrament of the Eucharist had psychedelic origins absorbed from Greek traditions (as part of the so-called “pagan continuity hypothesis with a psychedelic twist”). Terence McKenna (Food of the Gods), Paul Stamets (Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World), and Aldous Huxley (The Doors of Perception) are responsible for some classic psychedelic reads of yesteryear. Jim Fadiman’s The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide may be the practical how-to that budding psychonauts need. And though Carl Hart actually has some negative things to say about psychonauts in this year’s Drug Use for Grown-Ups, his book is excellent nonetheless for its even-handed philosophy on the destigmatization of recreational drug use of all sorts.
Finally, while it’s true that everywhere you go there you are, it’s important to understand the origin of your visions—psilocybin mushrooms, as they are currently used, were essentially gentrified from the practice of a Mazatec curandera in Mexico named María Sabina. A 1957 piece in Life magazine that kicked off the broader interest in psilocybin in the U.S. and elsewhere, “Seeking the Magic Mushroom,” exposed Sabina’s name and location to the world, overwhelming her and her supply. You can read about Sabina, her practice, and her chants in Maria Sabina: Selections (Poets for the Millennium) (Volume 2).
Music for Psychedelic Therapy by Jon Hopkins
Hopkins told Jezebel that he composed this album—which has elements of drone, ambient, and field recordings—as “really just the stuff that I wanted to experience myself” when on psychedelics (specifically DMT and ketamine). I recently heard this album in spatial audio the Museum of Future Experiences in Brooklyn, and during one particularly intense track inspired by a breakup Hopkins went through, I heard his relationship rip apart. It was harrowing and gorgeous. Buy it on vinyl for maximum fidelity. Music for Psychedelic Therapy is part of a larger musical movement that is gently redefining what psychedelic music means—it’s not just whining guitars, jam bands, and ravey beats anymore. And so on that tip, a few more ambient-leaning and spacey records from this year could also provide good trip-listening: Nala Sinephro’s astounding Space 1.8 and Floating Points/Pharoah Sanders/The London Symphony Orchestra’s Promises among them. Sometimes you also want something that feels like home, in which case this box set of early Joni Mitchell albums may prove useful. “I mothered the world,” Mitchell once told Camille Paglia. Thanks, Mom.
For your meditative needs, the Mindfold is a blindfold plus. Foam padding (with eye holes cut out) is backed with rigid plastic, which makes it so that you have equal darkness whether your eyes are opened or not. That is a trip in itself!
No matter how much (or how little) you want to invest in the spirit-world aspects of tripping, it really helps to have some kind of a shaman to stretch out your mind ahead of time so that it can expand nicely when the tripping commences. Buki Felipe offers a three-part Zoom-based course in psilocybin tripping on the site Adventures in Om. “We’ll cover holistic mind-body-sprit preparatory tools, skills for navigating the sacred mushroom experience as safely as possible, as well as key integration guidelines to ensure you are set for your psychedelic adventure with full confidence and faith in your path going forward,” reads the description. As in most areas of life, in tripping confidence is key.
Lemons can help make a trip come on faster and stronger, according to the psychedelic resource Double Blind (which has its own shop with even more potential gifts for the aspiring/established psychonaut). So here’s three pounds of them.
A heart-shaped bong
Should you smoke when you are tripping? Maybe yes, maybe no, but you probably will anyway. Pipe Dreams (ahem, run by Jezebel album Tracie Morrissey) offers an array of adorable ways to get stoned, including the heart-shaped bong above.
A good pair of headphones
As tempting as Apple’s Airpods Max may be, you don’t have to tap into your savings to get a totally serviceable pair of headphones. I have the much, much cheaper Soundcore Life Q20 set, which I use to meditate with every day, taking full advantage of their solid noise-canceling function and they have yet to steer me wrong while I’m inside of my own mind.