Thursday, July 28, 2011

Self Transcendence

"Support for a neuropsychological model of spirituality in persons with traumatic brain injury" suggests that spiritual experiences are related to increased physiological activity of the frontal and temporal lobes and decreased activity of the right parietal lobe.

And similarly,
"The Spiritual Brain: Selective Cortical Lesions Modulate Human Self-Transcendence" finds that selective damage to left and right inferior posterior parietal regions induced a specific increase of self-transcendence.

And all that reminds me of "Religious and Mystical States:A Neuropsychological Substrate," some highlights on Andy Newberg's website, which describes more activation in frontal lobes and lower activation in the parietal lobes (where the sense of space and time are manufactured).

So overall, decreased activity (lower beta, higher alpha) in the parietal area seems to be important.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Various Thoughts On All This Stuff

  • On alpha EEG biofeedback with psychedelics
I'd say it has an influence, but perhaps slight. Based on the research I mentioned in an earlier post, the alpha state seems to be more associated with euphoria, and not so much with hallucinations and fantasy. And for whatever reason, I'm not getting much in the way of hallucinations. It amazes me that back in the nineties, with a 2 gram dose, I experienced closed eye visuals, and now with 6+ grams and nitrous oxide I'm not even getting that. I mean, sure, I'm getting the fabric of space and time melting away, but I'm not seeing other worlds or monsters. I would call it more distortion than hallucination.  I'd also say that my pre-alpha biofeedback trips had a substantially larger anxiety component, particularly my first trip which was on LSD.  Then again, I was young and psychologically less experienced.

  • Theanine
Theanine I can't really say. It's plausible that it would help similar to alpha biofeedback. Still a bit unsure about it's MAOi status. On wikipedia it is listed as a substance that should not be used with an MAOi, still not quite sure if it is an MAO inhibitor itself. Based on my last experience, my guess is that it is not.

  • Nitrous Oxide
N2O, classed as a dissociative, takes you beyond, but I personally find it somewhat "egoic." For me it seems to keep the ego or the narcissism strong up until the point where you actually go substantially beyond. I had experienced this before with cannabis and N2O, and had actually decided to abstain from it for that reason, among others. Coming back to it and using it a couple of times with psychedelics I felt like there was a learning process for letting go of that.

  • Photic Stimulation
The use of a light and sound machine, at least the light portion, makes a very fun addition to a trip. I recall reading Stanislov Grof describing how as a psychiatry student he took LSD as one of the first experimental subjects, and at some point they turned on a strobe light set to flash at his dominant alpha frequency. He described it as being "hit by a radiance that seemed comparable to the epicenter of a nuclear explosion, or perhaps the light of supernatural brilliance said in oriental scriptures to appear to us at the moment of death."

I can't say it quite did that for me, but at high enough doses the photic stimulation seems to provide a structure for the mind to compose amazing visualizations. At lower doses a stable alpha frequency was not quite so interesting, programs that varied the frequency seemed more fun. I found the lower frequencies of photic stimulation to be less interesting, but I do find that I sleep better after exposure to lower frequencies rather than high. And at higher doses a stable alpha frequency is just fine.

  • The Progress of Insight from Theravada Buddhism
My wild speculation is that this map of spiritual progress may come into play with psychedelics. Perhaps if you are in the ballpark of approaching the 4th nana, for example, the trip has a better chance of hitting all that 4th nana stuff, the big bliss and love stuff. Once you have solidly passed the 4th nana, then maybe you don't hit the bliss and love quite so much, maybe you could hit it big again if you make it past stream entry and get into the next cycle, or alternatively if you backslide.

  • The learning process
These trips seem to build on each other. Something "new" is encountered, then on the next trip what was once new and barely glimpsed becomes more familiar. I would definitely say any fears I have about tripping are substantially gone (famous last words, I'm sure).

After I became comfortable with tripping, a learning process in itself, particularly after my 2nd trip back, I was just dying to trip again. It's like I got some kind of glimpse or taste, and wanted to go back and see more, understand more. It's like I wanted to trip again the very next day, but grudgingly waited a few weeks to regroup and avoid any tolerance. But the last trip gave me some sense of completeness. Can't really say if I will go back, I kind of assume I might, but I do feel done for the moment. I got a decent glance at what I was looking for, maybe someday I will go back for another look. In Zen they have a map of progress, the 10 oxherding pictures. I feel like I at least caught a glance of the ox. Based on a few ethereal moments, I feel like I got the joke.

One way of putting the joke is that I kind of feel like I am writing to myself.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Trip Reports #4 & #5

Trip 4
100 mg theanine
2.3 gm psilocybe cubensis
nitrous oxide
alpha eeg biofeedback at T3 & T4

Trip 4 was a replication of the dosage of trip #1 and to try and gauge the effect, if any, of theanine in the light of my experience with higher dosages. And then adding nitrous oxide to that.

Nitrous oxide is a pretty big deal by itself. With cannabis, it becomes a bigger deal. With a psychedelic, yeah, that is indeed quite something. There were "flattening" experiences that tore the dimensions from 3 down to 2, and then ... what's to say. Beyond description.

I thought I was dying a couple of times. That might sound really horrible, but it wasn't. I was feeling good, and consciousness or reality was just kind of evaporating. I was in a space where I didn't really know, for example, whether or not I had, say, poisoned myself. I knew that there was a drug involved, basically, and then again I knew enough to know that maybe I shouldn't trust my f-d up mind. There was concern, but some reason to doubt that concern. It was an exquisite place really, and there was also a sense that if this was the end, so be it, this is it, nothing I can do at this point - so surrender, and go into ... whatever. And then ... so refreshing to be coming back to reality, realizing you are completely safe and well, and just breaking into laughter at the ego's little attachments about itself.

Hearing was cutting in and out. As consciousness, or whatever you would call it, evaporated, often all sound would cut out. As "it" returned, sound would cut in, and sometimes go away again. In everyday life on rare occasions I experience that while I am falling asleep or waking up.

Trip 5
300 mg theanine
6.2 gm psilocybe cubensis
nitrous oxide
alpha eeg biofeedback at Fz & Pz

Trip 5 boosted the dosage to new heights, beyond the 5 gram "heroic dose." Not really sure the theanine has an effect. Theoretically it is listed as an MAO inhibitor, which should inhibit the metabolism of the psilocybin and thus intensify the trip, but I'm thinking it must be a pretty mild MAO. At any rate, Theanine is of interest as it seems to help boost alpha waves. It might help keep things more relaxed and open.

For this trip, after my "near-death" experiences of the last trip, I spent some prep time getting it into my head that I was both safe and immortal for the purposes of this particular journey. And it seemed to work, I had no concerns or fear of death, but then again I think just the fact that I had already lived through it and came out okay is pretty well ground in me now.

So. About that ol' Trip 5.


I mean, there is this tendency to put things like this on a pedestal, but it was what it was. It's hard to explain how important that is, "it was what it was," that perspective. It's easy to miss the oblique reference to something beyond games or interpretation. This was not a blissfest, but there was bliss involved, and stress, the stress on the body. In the last post about massive doses of LSD the first guy says he was "all." That's a good description. Another would be the great Robert Hunter lyric, "wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world." Yep. Absolutely.

To be no different than existence itself, and to see it all play out, is quite something. Such a sense of wonder.

... that there is even a sense of wonder ...
that there are civilizations ... and odes to love and experience, all the joys and sorrows, all the different flavors.

to even have friends or "enemies"

to be beyond

When I start thinking about ego-death, sure, I don't even know, sure, maybe. Must be, right? When words are gone, when all that there is just is, and all the little games are gone and all is ... all. I mean, to even have an ego, right?

It's not even that it was that "great." It simply was. It's really nice to see it all from beyond the world of games.

After, I cried for a long, long time. I don't even know why.

I love all of you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Massive Dosing - the LSD Thumbprint

Honestly, I had no idea that such massive doses of LSD had been used. I came across a thread describing a "thumbprint" of LSD, a dose based on sticking one's thumb into pure LSD powder and licking it off, an amount equivalent to hundreds of doses, several milligrams of pure LSD (old school doses were typically 100 micrograms, sometimes only 20-50 mcg these days). Several people on the thread had supposedly taken this dose, typically described as an initiation of trust into the family of folks who lovingly supply LSD to the clan of deadheads, rainbow gatherings, etc.

[EDIT - just to be on the safe side, please understand that I'm not recommending this to anyone.  Just sharing interesting info from the thread linked above.  Personally, I'm a fan of small safe, reasonable doses.  Also, although I can't point to any super hard data, for whatever reason it seems that reports of long term problems seem to come more from LSD users, possibly DMT users, but not so much, if any, from mushroom (psilocybin) users]

What follows is a substantial amount of selected quotes from several people, mainly two individuals. [note that 1 mg = 1000 mcg]:

What's it like? - It's not possible to describe what it's like. Except maybe DEATH.

What did you see? - ALL

What did you do? - My body did nothing, but lay down. I was no more, just ALL

Eating LSD crystal is intense, magical, crazy and the ULTIMATE ACT OF SUBMISSION TO THE PSYCHEDELIC STATE

You feel it almost instantly. LSD crystal has an energy to it. Having a jar of it in my pocket is enough to alter my consciousness. As soon as it touches your skin or goes in your mouth you can feel it. A lot of folks will throw up within minutes. This is an exorcism of sorts. Like all the negative energy being cast out of your body. Then you lay down and learn. As for the experience I just couldn't do it justice to describe it. You're never the same again. A thumbprint doesn't open the door of perception it blows it off the hinges. You melt into eternity. You let go and die into the moment which is all. There is no you anymore only all. The intensity of this can't be described, but you realize as you're slipping away that it's familiar. This is because it becomes quite clear this is exactly what happens when you die. After an eternity you slowly start to come back in pieces. You feel reborn and a completely different person. You don't ever come completely down or back. This isn't a bad thing, but it's very scary at first.

It is hard to describe a thumbprint. Human language cannot describe an experience that encompasses all of life. Every cell of every creature or living thing that ever lived or will live is connected by the energy or light. When we die our body and our ego is gone. We become one with eternity or the light or God or whatever name you wish to call it. A thumbprint allows this to happen and return to our physical body. My first print I laid down and quickly realized that this was my actual death. You watch the whole process unfold with complete awareness. I didn't cling to my body I just realized my life had passed. As I was spiraling up or out I saw my life evolve through the years I lived. The happiness, the sadness, the people I loved and the people I didn't. The joy that I gave and the pain that I caused. I saw the true nature of reality and why things were the way they were. As I got higher I saw the nature of reality on the cosmic scale and saw that the reason for our evolution was to experience love. To love is to have experienced the finest of life. Then came the moment were it was time to let go. As I did it came for me and I sobbed uncontrollably for I realized that the light or energy we call god or creation was perfect. It was pure unconditional love.

What else could god have been I realized. That glint of innocent perfection in a baby's eye. The light was pure as the heart of Jesus Christ. I dissolved into it and died. Since there was no me only the all, I cannot remember the rest because there was no me to remember. After forever I slowly descended into my body. I spent days awake afterwards talking to myself. I vowed to god to spread LSD so others could see the light. I vowed to look at every person as the lord and treat them as such. I was reborn and continue to live by the values I learned.

LSD is a direct message from God. Period. I don't think we get another chance. We can love each other or we can kill each other, but it is up to us.

I feel high all the time still and it's been years.

I must stress that I was in the company of very evolved and older people that made sure my experiences were optimal. These were kind old spirits that had been where I was going many years before and many times. They held me as a baby every inch of the way.

You have heard of near death experiences right. A thumbprint is a beyond death experience.

It is something one cannot just "decide to do one day" and EVERYONE I know who has done it has had a pretty high LSD tolerance and experience level. It is more a symbol of trust than key to enlightenment as the experience is completely overwhelming and memory is scrambled between acid dream and "reality" with most of it blank. I had persistent imagery for several months and for the following week felt "rode hard and put away wet".

When I showed up at the trailer he had a funny grin on his face and he said "I hope you don't have plans." We went in and his old lady was there, unusual, and she was holding a small watch glass with the crystal spice in it. She said "honey it is time to grow up". They then told me to stick in my thumb and press. By then I was nervously curious and my hands were sweaty so I pulled my thumb free with a generous coating on it. I looked at it and I swear I could feel it starting then I stuck my thumb in my mouth and let go. The first hour or so I think I was in and out of the world then "I" just disappeared for eternity. IMO part of me still is there.

I am facing death due to a botched angiogram and I know I will meet with the part of me which rides the eternal winds when my time is over. I know that death is a mere transition, I know this because I died that day in late '78 and arose again reborn. My priorities of life were refocused and I have been working to integrate the new paradigm of being which was created by that day every since. I think if a lesson or enlightenment came from this it is that I consciously participate in my life to a much greater degree. This is not the "easy' way to live in a world of injustice and cruelty. I have been forced to accept the balance of positive and negative without imposing my own desire.

And I still must struggle mightily to integrate and exist in this society. My friends old lady said it was time to grow up but she did not say I would outgrow myself. I have absolutely NO regrets although the changes in my mind and thought process have made interfacing with traditional thinking a challenge.

Like China said every day I know I 'thumbprinted" but the funny thing is no matter how you rewire your brain life still brings the same challenges. I still have to stuggle with the challenges but I believe that I may have somewhat more novel solutions to some things than some others, but all in all I am remarkably Ward Cleaver considering.

One last thing, I have experienced literal death (heart stopped) and the irresistibility of death and strong psychedelic experience are quite similar. In Death one realizes the ineffable nature of the experience and resisting is futile, much like resisting a thumbprint, it is just NOT possible.

There is a massive difference between 500mcg and a thumbprint. They're not even comparable trips. As for saturation effect this is from medical research in the 50's comparing doses of LSD. There may not be a noticeable difference between 1000 and 2000 mcg. There is a huge difference between 1000 mcg and 40 or 50 mg. Of course the researchers never ventured into this dosage range.

Usually the person is deemed ready by those who can tell. They are taken care of before and after the print by the family, this may take up to a week before you're functioning again. Sometimes skeptics are printed, but their reactions are usually very, very shattering. It's hard when your whole belief system explodes and the truth is revealed. You basically have to start from scratch. All those years you thought you knew the truth and God, then in a matter of minutes you find you didn't know shit, then you die.

It's affected me on so many different levels. Mentally it has changed my whole outlook on life and my perception of the world. Spiritually it has given me the absolute faith in eternity that can only be had from being eternity. My philosophies are all based on my experiences. I no longer see the world as a bunch of separate species and things, but a connected matrix of biology and energy that flows to and from a core that is the pure light of unconditional love. Physically it's affected me in that you never come back down completely. But why would you anyway? You can't look at the truth and then pretend you didn't see it and that it doesn't exist. A thumbprint is a life long commitment. As for visual activity, it's constant. But I hardly notice it anymore. Eternity is in the here an now. So is my life, so they constantly flow together or against each other. Meditation is key for me now.
I no longer consider my physical reality my true reality.

I guess you could sum it up as Robert Hunter did after his night of 250,000 mcg, "I died 1000 deaths." That's what it really is, death. Most people live their lives unsure about what happens when we die. Even the most devoutly religious have anxiety about the big moment. I don't, I welcome it. That's how it's changed me.

The 50-500 mcg range will saturate the serotonin system however LSD also affects other receptors like dopamine and noradrenaline to a lesser degree, at ultradoses these effects come more strongly into play negating the plateau effect. The difference between 500 mcgs and 10000+ is incomparable as is the mode of ingestion. The change begins as the crystals melt on your tongue and is totally unlike eating a pile of pre-layed paper [blotter]. One senses his imminent ego death coming as the crystals are absorbed into the tongue. The knowledge that you are totally in the care of family is what one clings to as long as concepts such as family contain meaning then one is simply ... gone. When awareness returns it is changed and IMO forever. I have to laugh when Ram Dass says he "came down" - returning to sobriety is not the same as being unchanged. One does come down from a print but NOT UNCHANGED. I have had the privilege of speaking with Ram Dass on several occasions and to this older tripper his "mark" is as clear as if it were painted upon his forehead.

It's a feeling of energy. You feel it instantly. Especially after your first one. Your nervous system jolts to attention as if to say, "here we go."

On a thumbprint size dosage you no longer have any beliefs. There is no you. Reactions can vary on the way up, but soon all your beliefs, attitudes and perceptions completely vaporize along with physical reality. None of it survives a print. There is no I anymore only ALL. Afterwards your beliefs are very different or they may be similar if your beliefs were close to the truth to begin with.

People can bullshit their way through a lot of intense psychedelic experiences. Somehow they can hold onto their twisted ego games sometimes. On a thumbprint that's not even a possibility. You can't bullshit Eternity when it's blasting you to pieces. The more you try to hold on the quicker and harder it burns you. You dissolve and dissolve till there's no you left to hold on.

On a print you can go quietly and easily or you can go kicking and screaming, but you are going to go no matter what.

The thing about thumbprints is that after the first hour there is no you to create fear or trick your body into shutting down. We have taken BP and pulse of people on thumbprint size doses before and there is a slightly elevated BP and heart rate, but not too extreme. These were experienced people though, and there was no fear involved.

We can only speculate as to these hypothesis, as no studies will ever be done. The fact that these doses are usually only done by people ready for them greatly helps that there are so little negative outcomes. That's why I believe prints should be done in the mountains with family and not in a hospital like a lab rat.

One thing I have noticed is at print doses after the first hour when you have been vaporized and are completely gone breathing seems to stabilize. Before that the anxiety and fear have folks breathing like they're in a marathon. After they have let go though it seems that the body continues to function quite normally while there away. It's that first hour that's so traumatic.

There could be a dosage range though that can cause physiological harm. We don't know it and we never will, and people have survived more than a gram [that would be 10,000 x 100 mcg doses].

On a normal large dose of LSD there is the high visual activity, sensory alteration, synesthesia, ego loss, etc, etc. On a thumbprint it feels like you completely short circuit your brain. All cognitive function stops. Like pouring water on a breaker panel it pops, then all connections and activity are fried. The cognitive filter is shut off and eternity is able to creep in. Obviously all brain activity doesn't stop because you keep breathing and your heart keeps pumping. The brain stem, hindbrain, medulla, pons and cerebellum are probably not affected.

Just wanted to say again, this was a collection of quotes from a long thread in a forum on another site.  So the authors of those quotes are not here, although you are welcome to comment.  Thanks.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Meditation Changes the Brain

In "Enhanced brain connectivity in long-term meditation practitioners", new MRI-based imaging techniques (diffusion tensor imaging) reveal large scale changes in structural connectivity throughout the brain, not just in specific locations.

Also stumbled across a study by Davidson, "Buddha's Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation" that describes some changes in the brain due to meditation. Davidson uses neutral language to describe shamatha meditation as FA or Focused Attention, and vipassana meditation as OM or Open Monitoring. Changes were measured with fMRI and EEG, and seem to relate to qualities of sustained attention (FA) as well as the ability of the brain to remain undisturbed by phenomena (OM). The latter reminds me of Pa Auk's instruction to create a mind inclined towards abandonment, a mind that can let go of its attachments.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Path vs. Non-Path

Judson Brewer at Yale is doing research on post Path yogis to try and determine differences between the pre-Path and post-Path brain.  Path refers to the Theravada Buddhist map of the 4 Paths one must attain for enlightenment and specifically indicates a moment of "cessation" (one definition of nirvana) that occurs at the end of the meditative cycle known as the Progress of Insight.  Commonly yogis acquire the ability to access certain jhanas (pleasant concentration states) after attaining Paths, with 4th Path being a common definition of enlightenment, although 4th Path is not quite the end.

Owen Becker relates the story in Meditating In A Big, Magnetic Tube Part I from the Hamilton Project Blog.

Subjectivity in Hallucinogenic Research

Langlitz' think-piece, "The persistence of the subjective in neuropsychopharmacology: observations of contemporary hallucinogen research" had some interesting hallucinogen-research-porn:

When I arrive in the electroencephalogram (EEG) laboratory the experiment
has already started. The room is lit only by the computer screen showing the
subject’s brainwaves. Looking through the observation window I cannot see
anything at first glance. But as my eyes get used to the darkness I begin to
make out the shaven-headed Zen master dimly illuminated by the monitor
in front of him sitting bolt upright in the leather armchair. A tangled mass of
wires seems to be coming out of the back of his head disappearing in the dark.
Jan is a Swiss meditation teacher in his 50s, to whom has been administered
the hallucinogenic drug psilocybin to examine how it affects his ability to
meditate. The young neuroscientist who invited me to witness this measure-
ment in Franz Vollenweider’s Zurich laboratory ‘Neuropsychopharmacol-
ogy and Brain Imaging’ is excited: while meditating, Jan’s brainwaves are
particularly ‘calm’, he explains to me, showing comparatively strong activity
in the alpha range.

After the measurement, Jan looks serene and happy. The
researcher interviews him to learn more about the experience that went along
with those unusual EEG patterns. Jan recounts that at the beginning he saw
hideous faces and carnivalesque processions of ghosts. But then he remem-
bered the Tibetan Book of the Dead and reminded himself that these were
only projections of his ego. Eventually, he resorted to a simple mantra that he
had learned as a novice, a meditation over two words coupled with special
attention to the physiological processes of inhalation and exhalation. Thereby,
he managed to repel the spooky spectacle and was elevated to a ‘higher state
of consciousness’ culminating in an experience of oneness with the universe.
Much to his surprise and even disappointment this experience of cosmic unity
was associated with the name of Jesus. It must have to do with his upbring-
ing in a Christian family, he muses. He was relieved and delighted when subse-
quently thinking of Buddha further deepened this state of ego-dissolution.
Compared to his everyday consciousness, he says, he gained a much more
profound insight into the fact that the ground of all existence is love. ‘Divine
love’, he specifies, ‘or even better: being.’ This occurred to him as an eternal
truth: ‘It has always been that way and it will always be that way. When
reaching that state’, he tells us, ‘I thought: This is it! This is it!’ The state he
had been striving for during three decades of meditation exercises.