Monday, September 21, 2015

Salvia Divinorum Stories

Comcast is soon discontinuing its "Personal Web Page" service. I've got a bunch of stuff I put up there over the years, which will disappear when the service ends. I'm transferring some of it from there to this blog, for the benefit of future generations... 

Salvia Divinorum Stories 
Experiences with a mind-expanding herb

Salvia is a visionary plant, long used by shamans in South America. Over the past decade or so, word of amazing experiences with Salvia has been circulating on the net among seekers of altered states. Smoking the leaf provides an other-worldly rush, peaking for just a few minutes, followed by lesser effects lasting up to an hour. Following are tales of my own adventures. For more recent stories, including chewing fresh leaves in Hawaii, see my blog postings here and here.

I went to visit my friends M & J. I'd already emailed them information about Salvia. They were intrigued but cautious. As with other friends, I was torn between wanting to share this amazing experience, while on the other hand trying to recognize that taking such an earth-shattering trip is a heavy personal decision that I oughtn't push on anyone.

After much talk, M asked that I go first so he could at least observe the outward effects. I explained that immediately after smoking, I'd likely lack the ability and/or desire to speak, so they should give me 5 or so minutes of silence. I started with a couple tiny hits, spaced perhaps a minute apart. I wanted to judge what was necessary for a lower-level trip, since maybe M & J should start slowly. I got slightly altered, seeing subtle open-eyed effects. Like bits of stained glass floating around in my field of vision. From past experience, I knew I was on the edge of something much bigger. I was ambivalent: had I gone far enough? I guess not. I took a 3rd, larger hit & lay down.

There was a disconnect. I couldn't tell you the path I took from nearly-ordinary consciousness to the Salvia space. Either there was a brief blackout, or the path was so non-ordinary that memory can't hold it. In any case, next thing I knew, there it was. The effects were familiar from my half dozen or so previous Salvia trips. It's not just that they're hard to describe, but that it's so difficult to even remember them when not in the space.

It was as if the fabric of reality were literally a fabric: a fabric that could be twisted & torn & warped. (Earlier in the day, we'd visited a science museum & seen a short movie that talked about how space itself curved around black holes. Curved *space*? What the hell could that mean? The warping of this fabric was something like that.)

Sometimes it was as if reality had been twisted into tubes, wormlike, or DNA-like, constantly whirling. At others, it was as if this fabric had a Y-shaped zipper that had been unzipped, leaving 3 undulating pieces of reality, with synapse-like tentacles dancing in the unzipped areas.

Everything was through a prism, or kaleidoscope, or fun-house mirror. Sometimes the ordinary world was recognizable through this filter, sometimes not. And though all this description sounds visual, it was more than that. The most stunning effect (as in my previous trips) was that there was no sense of an "I" apart from the fabric. There was just the unity of the experience, with no memory of myself or sense of myself as a separate entity.

I sat up (M later said that I'd only been lying down for 10 or 15 seconds). I recognized the Salvia & the bong on the low table. Suddenly I had some context for the experience. I realized (in a very rudimentary way -- I was still far from my usually coherent thought process) that this was a strange realm, & that it had something to do with the Salvia I saw on the table. I remembered having been to this realm before, each time with the Salvia somehow involved. I put it this way because I still wasn't sensing my separate self. That is, there wasn't any identification with that being who'd smoked the Salvia.

At the risk of sounding "Being John Malkovitch"-y... I'd been taken away from my usual portal, that place in my head, behind the eyes, where I usually feel like I'm dwelling. First, there was this entirely new world, beyond time & space. Then, as I recognized the Salvia & the room I was in, there was the absolutely stunning realization that I already knew this world; I'd just changed portals. And that my epic travels had taken place over a few seconds without physically going anywhere.

Along with this awareness came a sort of wonderment at how lightly I treat Salvia in between trips. I mean, I'd been joking about it with M & J when we'd talked about it moments earlier. I'd been carrying the Salvia with me all day, & it had certainly been on my mind periodically, but it had only been one of many things on my mind. Now, that seemed so strange. As if I'd been spending all day with a tunnel to another universe in my pocket, & regarding it as just another item on my to-do list.

For the following minutes, I moved back & forth between being completely absorbed into the fabric, & having various levels of self-awareness. Mostly, I beheld the fabric, & had this nagging feeling that my self was in there *somewhere*, though I didn't have an idea of where or what it was. Though I wasn't petrified, there was I think a bit of unease at not knowing who I was. When I found myself, would I be OK?

I looked at M. I recognized him as a friendly & familiar presence. Perhaps some solid ground in the midst of this perfect storm. He said something to me, something like, "You said not to talk for a few minutes." Ahh, I got some more context, a bit more awareness of my original intention. I replied something to M. Later, he told me that I'd looked at him very seriously & said only, "Yesssss." Anyway, I also around this time recalled that ambivalent feeling I'd had before the final hit, recalling how I'd questioned whether I'd gone far enough. Yeah, I realized, wherever & whoever I am, there's no question that I've gone far enough.

I looked over at J. Out of the swirling shapes etc of the fabric, her calm & recognizable face emerged. I realized she was a friend too. It was a good sign: I was cautiously optimistic that whenever I eventually found myself, my situation & condition wouldn't be so bad. But it was also kinda weird to see her so composed. I mean, didn't she realize that reality was warping all around her?

For the remainder of the trip, I mostly looked at the floor in front of me. Periodically, I'd recall my intention of communicating something of this experience to M & J. It seemed impossible. For one thing, communication requires that one exist as a separate entity from the communicatee. In those moments where I found a bit of my separate self, the thing I most wanted to communicate was gone.

Gradually, unsteadily, the fabric began to resume its more familiar state. My self (& simultaneously the "objective world") began to coagulate. I sensed my body -- oh, yeah, I remember having a body! Wondrously, I could even make it function. I was ready to re-connect with M & J, but I couldn't think of anything non-trivial to say. I mumbled something like, "OK, I'm here now." And I remember saying, "I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what?" asked J.

"Sorry that I couldn't bring anything back," I said.

On another occasion, I was alone, trying to be contemplative. Shortly after smoking the Salvia, my mind was separated from the objective world, & for just a few seconds (it seemed) I had a vision. "Vision" might not be quite the right word, since I didn't experience it as a perception separate from myself. But something like a vision.

Figures in this vision were very simple human figures, like a Keith Haring animation. But, like an MC Escher drawing, all these figures were linked together, that is, they fit together perfectly like pieces of a jig-saw puzzle.

At first, my focus was on one of these figures, which I think I identified with. Its movements were like someone slowly crawling on the ground. I think I identified this with my own efforts to "advance" in life. The perspective of the vision widened a bit, and I saw more clearly how this particular figure was non-separate from the rest. That is, though from the narrow perspective, it appeared that this figure was independently crawling along, it was actually both being pushed by the figures ("beings") behind it, & in turn pushing the figures in front of it. So I felt that whatever progress I made in life couldn't be separated from the progress of all beings.

Then the perspective widened a bit more. I saw that all of these countless linked beings weren't crawling (progressing) along a flat surface, but rather on an earth-like globe. So even though from the previous perspective we were all advancing, progressing... in fact we were all just ultimately moving around in a circle. There was all sorts of activity that appeared (from the narrower perspectives) as struggle, as advancement, as pushing or being pushed... but from the larger perspective, nothing was ever gained, & nothing was ever lost.

I have a vague feeling that the perspective got even a bit wider than this, but it got so non-ordinary that I couldn't "bring it back" even a little.

Anyway: the whole thing lasted a matter of seconds. It culminated in a very strong sense that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, all things were in perfect balance, everything was already perfectly resolved. Even struggle/suffering was part -- a necessary part -- of the grand balance.

Now I'm in ordinary consciousness (i.e., as ordinary as I get). I can't bring back that vision. I doubt that I could function in the world if I constantly or frequently had that vision. Perhaps I haven't even been able to explain it very well. But there's *something* about it that's left a trace.

I don't have any "faith" in the usual sense of the word. I put no stock in the words of books or teachers who others consider holy. Embracing a belief because it's old or popular or endorsed by honored people is offensive to my rational mind. But the vision I'm talking about here has left me with something as close to "faith" as I'll ever get.

That is, in my ordinary life, in which it so often seems like there's no harmony, no balance, no resolution (& sometimes no *possible* resolution) to the problems & sufferings of existence... there's now something inside that feels that when I let go of my personal perspective, there's a wider perspective in which all things are already perfectly resolved. Even though I can't see it now, there's a trace memory of seeing it at least once. And that makes a difference.

Many people report communication with non-human "entities" during a Salvia trip. This hasn't been common in my own trips. I'm more likely to feel a non-separation from all things, rather than visitation from a different realm.

But one time, I did have a brief visitation experience. I remember seeing a number of beings who clearly weren't humans. Their heads were over-sized, and though I could see their bodies, they seemed translucent or somehow non-material. The idea of "a heavenly band of angels" came to mind, or a group of Boddhisattvas that one might see on a Tibetan Buddhist mandala.

I don't recall any specific words that they spoke to me. I do know there was a strong sense that they were welcoming me. They seemed to feel that it was wonderful for me that I'd made it their realm, and they were encouraging me to join them.

The idea that these entities were creations of my own mind didn't occur to me at the time. However, I'm familiar with Hindu and Buddhist teachings about beings in other realms. It's said we can get incarnated in other levels, even "heavenly" levels. But going to heaven is just like going on a vacation. The beings in heaven aren't really free, they're just reaping the happiness they've earned through good actions, and when they've used that up, they'll get reborn back in a lower realm.

This type of thinking did come to mind as the entities were calling me. It seemed like they were free of the suffering that comes from material existence. But what if they'd transcended earthly attachments, only to acquire new and different attachments in their higher realm? What if they weren't calling me towards freedom, but just a fancier prison? Though I didn't feel the beings were intentionally trying to fool me, I quickly began to wonder whether they were more sirens than angels.

As my ambivalence grew over joining them in whatever state they were calling me towards, they slowly melted into nothing.

As with any type of altered state, it's difficult to say what if any "use" such experiences have. I think that for some people, a few Salvia experiences might be an antidote for depression, or an encouragement for meditative practice or deep questioning. For myself, I'm not sure. But even after my long and varied history of psychedelic use, from LSD on down, Salvia was something new, something with an undeniable and repeatable "wow" factor. I can easily go months without any desire for a Salvia trip, though I don't think I'm completely finished with this plant yet.

I hope these stories make clear that this isn't an easy or recreational high to be trifled with. Salvia accepts serious inquiries only! Much more information is available from Daniel Siebert's Salvia Divinorum Research and Information Center.

Since writing these stories, I've given Salvia a rest for a few years, aside from chewing fresh leaves in Hawaii as mentioned at the top of this page.

No comments: