Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hawaiian Trip

I'm back from my trip to Hawaii. I hit some of the great tourist spots: marvelled at the view from the top of Mauna Loa (world's largest volcano), gingerly hiked across solidified lava flows, and communed with the fishes while snorkeling at Captain Cook's Cove. I met various old hippies who had "dropped out" to simple farming lives on the island, awaiting the collapse of modern society.

I'm always just as interested in inner travels as outer ones. So I was intrigued to find that the visionary plant Salvia Divinorum grows well in Hawaii. Over the last decade, I've had a number of mind-exploding experiences smoking the herb, which I try to describe on the Salvia Stories page of my personal site. (My little claim to net fame is that if you Google "Salvia Stories," my trip reports come up #1.)

Aside from smoking, an alternate way to trip on Salvia is to chew fresh leaves. Growing the plant isn't so easy where I live, and besides, I've never had the green thumb. So I'd never had a chance to have a good trip with the chewing method, not till Hawaii.

My 3 friends and I gathered in a dim room with a tray of big leaves picked from the plants minutes before. We shared an intention to be open and awake to whatever the plant showed us, and began chewing. I found the taste awful, and holding the Salvia-filled saliva in my mouth (so the magical molecule could get absorbed below the tongue) to be disgusting.

After a little more than 5 minutes, I was ready to give up and spit it out with regrets. Then suddenly the effects took hold. Initially, it was something like a psychedelic, with swirling body feelings, and translucent mandala visuals. That lasted just a few seconds, till it grew into something unique.

I was trying to stay quiet, so as not to disturb my friends' experiences. I'd usually find it easy to be silent and introverted when I choose to be, but in this case, I somehow couldn't stop uttering moans of amazement, even verbalizing a monstrous "WOW!"

As best I can remember and describe... I saw/felt a tangle of sensations and thoughts that make up the sense of being an individual in a body. It's like strands wound together so tightly that they seem like a solid thing. More than that, this sense of bodily existence is so constant and obvious that I ordinarily don't even notice it.

I have a dim recollection of that tangle unwinding, deconstructing. The thoughts and sensations resolved back to some unknowable source, dissolving all trace of a self. After a minute, I could open my eyes and perceive the world with near normalcy... except that identity and separation were noticeably and marvelously absent. The 4 of us spent 15-20 minutes laughing and babbling about the unspeakable space we were sharing.

I vaguely remembered the physical body, but without the feeling it was "me." When my friend lit a cigarette and passed it to me (no, kids, this isn't a good idea), I couldn't imagine how to relate to my body. But somehow, my arm moved and my hand took the cig; it would have been no more amazing if I'd been able to move mountains with my will.

One of the nicest parts of the trip was the interval in which I was aware of my surroundings, but before the sense of self returned. For at least those minutes, I was able to look at my friends and only have concern for them, unfiltered and unhindered by the slightest thought of "me."


Anonymous said...

Stuart, you have just confirmed my thoughts about you! I always new you were just an old pot head. Kinda figures you living in Berkly! Well glad you can still see the water even in a haze!

nathan said...

See? Altered states are fun and enjoyable! Being able to do them on their own is actually a very undervalued and rare accomplishment, so it's no wonder people think of mystical experiences as so big and mysterious and important. Still made of the same stuff as everything else though.

Stuart said...

nathan said...
See? Altered states are fun and enjoyable!

Not always fun... but often like taking a ride in a balloon, so you can see the landscape from a different, wider perspective than you normally do.

Hardly anyone would want to live in a balloon all the time. But occasionally getting the different perspective has an effect even after you return "to the ground."

I mentioned in an earlier post... when the subject came up with my original Zen teacher, he said, "Sometimes when a person takes LSD, he sees that everything is changing, changing, changing, and he understands that attachment isn’t so good."

Doug said...

Hey Stu,

Just returned from my own Hawaii trip / honeymoon, also went snorkeling in Keala-kekua, and star-gazing on Manua Kea. :) No Salvia though. That island is an amazing place to be sure. I could easily have spent another couple weeks in full time exploration mode.


- Doug

Bruce from DC said...

Stuart -
Thanks for sharing your experiences (I started on "Salvia Stories"). You've done a great job of translating the hallucinatory/mystical into words. I also appreciate your admonition to approach such experiences with caution and seriousness. It's been 25 years since I've had any hallucinogens and lately I've thought it would be interesting to try it again with the changed perspective my years have yielded.

Stuart said...

Bruce from DC said...
I also appreciate your admonition to approach such experiences with caution and seriousness.

Thanks for surfing to this blog, Bruce.

Indeed, it's so very very hard for me to know whether or not anyone ought to try such experiences. This includes myself!

When I was younger, I was so hungry for any experience that would expand my mind and understanding, that there was no question I'd try just about anything available (e.g., 5 hits of acid in my mid-20s).

On the other hand, Salvia trips have a couple times brought me to such massive fear (specifically, fear of absolute dissolution of my "self"), that I reflexively made a mental note (at the time) to try my best to avoid that realm.

On the other other hand, my friends who use "plant teachers" as a spiritual path treat the fear as a necessary part of the process; for some, generating and facing that horrible fear is one of the very reasons to pursue the path.

I'm a Libertarian, an ultimately believe it's a highly personal decision. I like to post my experiences as I've done here, as a way of providing information that might help people in making their own decisions. Initially, I was so enthralled with Salvia that I did encourage others to try it. Now I try not to do that, but just communicate my own experience, and let everyone draw their own conclusions.