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Buddha

The principal emotion before popping the capsule was FEAR. I laid down and tried to calm myself for the initial “overwhelming” experience that Eric had told me about. I waited for the first signs and finally detected them: numbness around my lips, tingling and heaviness in my limbs, and funny black and white fingerprint swirls in my visual field, with eyes closed. As my limbs became lighter and more tingly, they seemed to rise above the bed by about two inches. I became panicked at this point and thought to myself “This was not a good idea..” I felt that I was losing consciousness. Strange, high frequency “computer” music was playing and an instrument that sounded like a didgeridoo. The volume increased but the loudness was never too great for this constant background music that would accompany me for the next two hours or so.

There was another form of music that was wild – I thought of it as cacophony. It was like salsa music, with female voices only, increasing in pitch and frequency until they reached a frenzy, and then it stopped (temporarily), only to start again in a short period of time. This cacophony began with every disturbing thought I had and seemed to finally drown out the thought.

No colors yet. I kept searching my visual field for signs of images. Finally, a magnificent oriental carpet appeared, in deep red with black designs, and it floated in my visual field. As I examined it closely, I noticed that there were many repeated block designs in the rug (it was a prayer rug of the Tekke type). In the middle of each block, a white form appeared and grew, simultaneously with the others, into an ivory white Buddha. There were scores of Buddhas on the rug. Then 3-D faces and animals began to appear, all beautifully colored, but somewhat subdued. I saw my partner, my dogs, and other people I have known in my life. As each one appeared, it turned slowly as it floated in my visual field, until it faced me full on, and then opened its mouth and began to scream silently in terror, with eyes bulging. Then it began to age rapidly, mutate into gross distortions, and then die. As each image died, it fell away like an empty shell, as light as air, or its contours blew away like dust in a strong wind.

I did not want to see these images because they were so disturbing and had such destructive energy. At this time, I would ask Eric if he was still with me (he was), and then I would move my fingers or toes to get regrounded in my body. My voice sounded like I was talking through a tube. Eric assured me later on that I was coherent and speaking in complete sentences, but at the time, I felt silly and kept forgetting all that I wanted to say.

I decided (upon Eric’s comment to me, “I think you’re too coherent”) to dive into the experience and surrender to it. I went in willfully and swam amongst the grotesque images, only to find that there was a boundary. As I went back to viewing my visual field, this boundary became clearer. It was a canopy of the Buddha rug, all in red and black with beautiful ivory Buddhas everywhere. This canopy would remain in my field for the entire two hour experience. If I just looked past the images, and focused on a Buddha, suddenly the entire, glorious canopy would appear. I found myself greatly amused with this constant feature. Once the canopy was in view, the original rug would float down on top of me like a death shroud. But just before it would touch, the shroud disappeared. I laughed at this trickery and seduction. I thought of the nature of impermanence.

Now I would examine every 3-D image that arose, in all of its initial beauty and color, to the end of its death, and I was at peace. The noise in the background was in contrast to this peace. The peace deepened each time I quickly focused on the canopy, at which time all of the images in the arena were simultaneously covered with the same material and detail as the canopy. The Buddha was in everything! There was not a square millimeter of space that was untouched by the Buddha. This scenario continued to be recreated, with my partner’s skin looking like the Buddha canopy, or my dogs’ fur composed of the Buddha canopy. I saw many other faces and wild beasts. I saw my mother choking me as a child (very disturbing), which quickly popped me back into my body. I did not resolve this image during the experience (i.e. it never attained Buddha nature). Finally the Buddha appeared so calm and serene that I felt that I could cry just upon seeing his face. Then his face contorted into happiness, then sadness, then rage, then old age and stupidity, then suffering, and finally old age and death.

The images began to diminish in color and frequency by about two hours into the trip. However, images, the rug, the canopy, etc. would continue to appear at a reduced frequency over the next hours.

Once the intense images had faded, I found myself really bothered by the music and the cacophony, which continued for many, many hours. During the first phase, and continuing into the second, I heard myself screaming indignant sentences of rage at different people (my mother, my brother, unknown faces). Each sentence was different, but they were all along the lines of, “How could you do this to me?” or “What in the world were you thinking when you did that?” Each sentence would trigger the salsa singers, who could drown out the rage, and kind of cap it off with their high-pitched frenzy. These rages were incredibly disturbing to me, but I would not understand them until later.

The other feature that was equally disturbing were these nerdy characters who were smart alecs and all had something clever to say, but it was a source of embarrassment to me. I would also not understand this feature until later.

From hours six to twenty, I felt happy about the things I had seen, but disturbed by the voices. This seemed to be a phase of reflection and remembering and insight. I realized at this time that my body will die someday but that my mind could continue to wander restless and disturbed. I tried to meditate when this thought arose, as a way of ensuring that my mind would be at peace on the day that I die.

I also saw myself in the two sets of disturbing voices/characters. The haughty, boisterous, narcissistic fool, and rageful child/adult. At first I didn’t quite know what to do with these repeating loudmouths, because they were so intense and relentless. It took me many hours of reflection in reverie until finally, their voices were silenced. I have a lot more to do with this material. I am still integrating it as I write. Eric says “Embrace it. Acceptance is the key.”

It was difficult riding out the long, early morning hours of processing this material. At about twenty-three hours into the experience, I saw a splash of royal blue painted over my left visual field. Following that, layer upon layer of purple-violet. This was the final end of the pictorials/colors.

I’m sure there’s more to say about what I have learned, but I feel patient now, to let it arise as it will.

“The Buddha is in everything!”

P.S. I never became nauseated during the entire experience. Not even queasy. I felt hunger throughout, but allowed it to be a part of the experience, just like the dry mouth, the disappearing limbs, and the grotesque screaming figures. I was happy for this “gift” of a “free ride” with no nausea.

Day 3

48 to 72 Hours into the Experience

The plant is still working on me. I find it hard to relate effectively to other people – it doesn’t feel genuine. My tendency is to turn inside and process. However, there are not as many spontaneous “arisings” of thoughts, issues, etc. as there were yesterday. I am aware of a rough edge to my temper, and I continue to feel the sense of righteous indignation that I first experienced during the intense phase of the plant’s effect on me. The word “righteous” has been added since Day 1. On that day, during the first two hours into the experience, it started out to be “indignant rage,” which really shocked me (since it is so out of character for me). I felt overwhelmed by it then, and I wanted to attenuate it by telling myself not to be so angry. Today I am seeing the roots of this rage in my early childhood. It feels more righteous since I processed it with my therapist in session this afternoon. This was an extremely difficult session – not because of the emotions involved, but because it took me about 20 minutes to figure out how to relate to her. This was my first session since taking the drug, and there was just too much to explain to her that didn’t really seem that relevant to me. Finally, we just decided to start from where I was, instead of trying to detail the entire experience. It’s so hard to describe the experience to someone who has not ingested the plant.

Today I had my first meal at 2 p.m. I have been eating fruit and drinking milk and juice since about eight hours after I took the capsule, but I didn’t feel the desire for a real meal until today.

I imagine that my serotonin receptors are being stimulated like crazy. There’s got to be more serotonin around in this phase. I feel very much like I did when I was taking 20 mg. of Prozac per day almost two years ago. Slight headache, same pressure behind the eyes, jaws very tight, a slight stiffness in my neck, a little dizzy when I get up, etc. Also, the same locomotor “inertia” phenomenon is happening that is so typical of my experience with Prozac, i.e. when I am at rest, I want only to be at rest; when I get up and move, I stay in constant motion. I remember my favorite experience on Prozac was to lie on the floor and stare at the rotating ceiling fan (which was one reason that I had to get off of the drug). There are a million mundane tasks around the house that could keep me busy right now, if I were to allow myself to attend to them. But I am trying hard to refrain from that type of mindless busywork. It’s much harder to lie down, or to sit in a meditative posture and reflect on the experience, but it is paying off. Actually, I am spending a lot of time lying on the floor, staring up at the ceiling fan.. The energetic movements inside my body are phenomenal. There is a tingling just under my skin, all over my body, which actually feels quite pleasant. Periodically, I will experience huge waves of energy arising in my thighs and moving up into my chest. It’s a very masculine, pulsating force. It feels quite empowering. I am rather enchanted with this energy, and I find myself attending to it in my body when I am at rest.

The experience of terror during the first hours after ingesting the plant seems much more available to me today than it did when I wrote my first entry at 29 hours. I have never felt terror like I did when I was first coming on to the plant. I wanted desperately to escape, by any means, but my thought process was being quickly overwhelmed by the plant, and I had nowhere to turn to except to go with it. I imagined that I might die. It was really horrible. The experience of my body being absolutely dissociated from my mind was so threatening. My limbs just disappeared, then my trunk and my head, and pretty soon I was left with only my mind, which was out of control. I kept moving my arms and legs, and opening my eyes, just to feel them again. (Any slight movement allowed me to experience the presence of my body completely.) Then, a few seconds after moving, the body disappeared again. I settled down and allowed the body to go only after I became adjusted to the mindfuck.. (I remember Max telling me, “Once you get it that this is what your mind is going to do, then it’s like ‘Ok, now I know what this is’ and you can relax. There’s really nothing to be afraid of”.)

It was really amazing to experience the alternations between “reality” and the altered state that Ibogaine produces. The fact that I could do a reality check at any time by simply moving or talking to Eric made the entire experience more palpable, more do-able, without panic. It took me a while to figure this out. Also, since I had no nausea, I could move at any time. Once I got into the experience, it was better to not move and just be with it, no matter what was happening. This property of Ibogaine is extraordinary – to have a somewhat intact ego that can come to the forefront at any time, and then to allow the altered state to take over, to surrender to it. I suppose the periodic presence of the ego was what allowed me to reflect in such detail on the experience that I was having.

Thinking back to the first two days, the most exquisite experience that I had happened upon awakening from sleep. I slept for two hours at about fifteen hours into the experience. Then, a while later, I slept for thirty minutes or so. The sleep was deep and there were no dreams. Upon awakening both times, I was an empty room. I wasn’t in an empty room, I was the emptiness of the room. There were no thoughts, there was no sound whatsoever. It was the most sublime experience of the void. Expansive awareness with no thoughts. There was so much space — pure, empty space. What an incredible delight, particularly compared to the cacophony of the previous fifteen hours. Unfortunately, this is not happening as I awaken from sleep today. And I am sleeping on and off, mostly off.

I always thought it was kind of crazy that certain cultures worshipped and protected plants that gave them particular powers of insight or allowed them to perform unimaginable feats. Now I understand. I am having a love affair with Iboga. It works in such mysterious ways – even before taking the plant, I began to have insights from just reading about the experiences of others! It is, to date, the most terrifying and ecstatic experience I have had. All mixed in one. Today, I felt compelled to open Andrew Harvey’s Dialogues with a Modern Mystic. I didn’t want to read anything conceptual, I wanted some experiential material to reflect on. The book fell open to the chapter on Death and Deathlessness. I realized after reading a few pages that I was underlining every line. It all seemed so pertinent to my experience. While reading, I had the experience, for the first time, that Life is Death. I never understood this before. But Ibogaine has broken my mind open and allowed me to see: Iboga is life is death.

(Sometime in August….the plant is still working on me)

Almost from the beginning of the day, I felt a sense of spontaneity, of just letting myself create the next move without intention. Later on, when it was time to go to work, I more or less flowed with the requirements of the workday, not really thinking much about a plan or what had to be done, but just meeting the next moment with confidence and relaxed awareness.

These are afterthoughts I am reporting. I didn’t reflect about my experience during the day until about 8:15 p.m., when I was riding home on my bike, surprised that it had become dark so soon. Many times during the day my body reminded me that it was somewhat fatigued, and hunger was present a few times, which was satisfied when I had the time to do so. I saw 6 clients, and worked with them without thinking about myself, or how I was doing with them, or how I was appearing to them: i.e., “I” was not doing therapy today. Something else was acting through me. On the way home some of the responses that were made to my clients were recalled. My awareness today was like being in the eye of a cyclone: the cyclone being my client’s tormented selves, and the eye being my sense of stillness, and calm awareness, seeing their unnecessary, but so compelling, creations. Sometimes it was as if their creations, or neuroses, were laid out in front of “me” like a finely woven oriental rug, and “I” would calmly reach down and pick up a golden thread that was holding the whole rug together, gently tug at it, and then hand the end of the thread to the client, to see if they were able, and willing, to unravel their “acts.” Some of them did, and the entire structure of the rug began to fall apart! Then after a small degree of unraveling, they would suddenly look to me as if to say: “this is scary, now what do I do?” And others quickly picked up the end of the thread and expertly wove it back into the body of the rug, all the while patting and smoothing it out, as if to reassure themselves that the rug was still solid, still able to bear their weight. More than once “I” imagined that the rug might simply take its master off on a wild carpet ride. Which it did…

And so, on my bike, I am laughing at the rug metaphor, remembering the prominence of the oriental rug that was the first pictoral in my Ibogaine experience – the rug that showed me the face and posture of the Buddha, thousands of time, hundreds of thousands of times, during the journey. There were other flashes of insight today: remembering my childhood, and suddenly being impressed with the idea that I had become a tomboy at an early age because I knew that my mother favored my older brother, so I must have reasoned in my child’s mind that I was the wrong sex. And just as suddenly, the realization struck that none of what has happened to me in life even matters, because “I” don’t exist! And therefore, there is nothing to punish my mother for, because “she” doesn’t exist either. What freedom, what a sense of liberation! And all of these things were happening in the eye of the cyclone.

As I type, a few ants are running around on the keyboard, exiting just above the “0” and reappearing from under the “d”, then quickly scuttling off to the letter “j “, around the quotation marks and off the edge of the computer. I am seeing this as whimsical, and I avoid harming them. Perhaps even a few playful ants can peacefully coexist with the musings of my mind as I attempt to translate my experience into words and images.

There are some strange things that have happened, stranger than what I have written above, because my life has not been lived from this perspective before. But these other strange phenomena are curious to me, because I’m not sure that they are real. Am I making them up? About 10 days ago I experienced what can only be described as a kind of internal electrical storm. This went on for 3 or 4 days. I heard electricity “crackling” in my head at night, and there seemed to be a series of unusual electrical events happening around me. For example, flourescent light bulbs were burning out, all the batteries in the remote controls were going dead, and the TV had a weird, very low frequency electrical sound that only seemed to be present when I was in the room. When I left the room, and viewed the TV from a distance, I couldn’t hear it anymore, even though I could still hear the audio portion of what I was viewing. It felt as if there was a kind of a “charge” around me, and inside of me, which was not unpleasant, but I felt I was disturbing the environment. Perhaps I am just making this up.

Last night, I had a recurrence of an experience that happened twice during the first 30 hours on Ibogaine. I woke up and experienced myself as an empty room. No noise, no sight, no thoughts, but fully conscious and aware of the experience. It was not as intense as the times I experienced this on Ibogaine. What I mean, I think, is that it didn’t last as long, and I wasn’t as surprised by it as I was the first two times it happened. This seems to me to be a guidepost of sorts, a demonstration of things to come. I don’t know why I think this – but it seems more than just a unique experience in itself. It is pointing to something, but I don’t know what.

The coincidences that are happening with my clients are really amusing me, and making me laugh out loud when I ponder them. There are so many things that clients and I are sharing with each other that seem to indicate that we are on the same wavelength of experience. I am seeing things so clearly, and although I don’t operate with so-called “skillful means” every day in my clinical practice, I am interpreting their experience in ways that I have not been able to access before. In a way, I feel kind of stupid for not being aware of these insights in the past, they seem so simple and straightforward to me now. Why have I missed all this in the past? Probably because my perceptions were colored by conventional ego, which now is being deconstructed daily. Huge chunks of “me” are being reinterpreted in this light, and, surprisingly, I am still able to function in the world. My fears are passing. But there is another layer of fear just underneath all this, because I feel that I am about to make a quantum leap into the next playing field. If only I could surrender completely to the spiritual forces that I have welcomed into my life. But perhaps I am not yet ready to have my life changed in the drastic ways that I believe will happen if I truly surrender.

The next day. About 20 minutes into the first session with a client, she says (of her troubled relationship with her ex-partner): “I think of my relationship with her like a beautiful scarf; and there is one golden thread running through it, and if I could just find the end of the thread and pull it out, everything would be fine.” Internally borrowing from my metaphor of the oriental rug from yesterday, I gently remind her that if the golden thread is removed, her beautiful scarf will unravel, and her life will change in many ways. She’s not too happy about this. She wants to remove the golden thread and leave the rest of her life intact. I see that she is not yet ready for the changes that will come about if she lets go of her pursuit of the ex-partner, so I gently let go. But in the midst of all this I am delighted and curious about how such a detailed metaphor could possibly have occurred to me the day before, and then to her, with absolutely no prompting from me, no allusions to it at all in the session. In fact, I had been more or less sitting there, just listening attentively to her for the first 20 minutes or so. Later on, I share the common metaphor with her in session, because she is spiritually available to hear this kind of information, and we sit quietly, in awe of what is, and wonder if there’s not more to life than meets the eye.