Something lives in my body. Though we have yet to meet, I can sense its lingering presence.
I have tried to grasp at it to no avail. How can you touch something that you cannot feel? Simply too far outside of my awareness. Not too distant for the music though. It travels with ease through the heavy dimness of these waters. It needs no direction, knows exactly where to go and what to look for. “There it is”, says the music, “Lift it up and bring it to the surface.” The mushrooms, in unison with the orchestra, work as a team to loosen the hardened debris. In an instant, the grief that has made a comfortable home, nesting itself within the dark splits and cracks of my body, has awoken from its torpid state.
“You can outsmart and hide from her, but you can’t hide from us,” the music hushes.
There it is. I am facing her with full presence. No; I am feeling her with every cell of my being. But it is too much. Please... make it stop. I thought I was equipped, I have yearned for this but I was wrong. How foolish of me to think that I knew pain when in fact, all of this time my psyche has been protecting me from its agonizing sensation. Who was I kidding? The cello plays a low, foreboding tone, and I cannot even weep. The instrumentals have rendered me immobile and I am overcome with despair. Is this what has been festering within my body? Have I been carrying this weight for my entire life?
Panic sets in... The voice in my head repeats the lines I have memorized so well, “Relinquish control, stop fighting it. Sit with the discomfort. What is it trying to teach you?” I try to recall the steps but poof! I have forgotten. How do I breathe? Everything is fleeting. Wait, it was right there at the tip of my tongue. All of the advice I have offered to others, now practice what you have preached. God damnit, I can’t remember. What was I just thinking about? My journal notes fly through my head, “When shit goes south, change rooms or change songs.” Yes! I can change songs! I don’t have to sit in this. I reach for my phone, struggling to recall how it operates. There! Here Comes the Sun. It plays and in an instant, my suffering ceases, joy and gratitude taking its place. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am now singing and dancing and at that moment, nothing else matters. I sing loudly, moving my body simultaneously, expelling the scene just moments before from my consciousness. I am free…
Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor begins to play and I am cast back into the unforgiving waters...
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
I was nervously anticipating going into this psychedelic experience. 7 months since my last "macro" dose, I had been contemplating my intentions, and was anxious to work with the fungi medicine again. For this journey, I planned for a therapeutic dose with the Johns Hopkins Playlist as my escort. I had previously tried it for a couple of low-dose sessions but only really dipped a toe or two into its healing waters.
For those who may not know, this setlist has been used for psilocybin-study participants at the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. It's a beautiful fusion, expertly curated by a team of researchers; a collection of opera, classical, and Hindu sounds among other genres. Its purpose is to serve as a guide, transitioning you between an array of feelings, and awakening emotions along its path.
An amateur mistake during last-minute preparation: I placed the music on shuffle. By the time I had realized, I was too far gone to call upon my problem-solving skills. This particular compilation is intended to be played in order, carrying the listener during onset, leading them through its peak, and cradling them for the comedown. With that in mind, at certain points, I was plunged into feelings of sorrow with little preparation or warning. Not ideal, nevertheless it was a beautiful experience—albeit some intense moments were challenging to navigate, I feel like I've walked away from the event stronger, braver, and a little humbler, with a better understanding of myself, and a deepened respect for this healing process: one that need not be rushed.
Let the Music Do the Talking
I have been nurturing my relationship with the arts since childhood. In those days, if I wasn’t reading or writing, I was listening to my favourite bands and singers. I can still recall young Melly running to reserve the school's stereo during lunch breaks so that she could excitedly introduce her classmates to the Jagged Little Pill album. Lyrics perhaps a little too wise for those innocent ears, but I was a passionate soul, even at 12-years-old.
Alanis evolved into a severe obsession with the Beatles. An older brother with a soft spot for R&B taught me to appreciate a little bump and grind. My father’s eclectic tastes for everything from Elvis, La Compagnie Créole, and Andrea Boccelli accustomed my ears to a variety of genres. Years serving in the club industry gave me a deep love for old-school hip-hop. These are simply a handful of the people, places, and things that molded my musical tastes into what they are today; a vast collection of memories and emotions.
With time this cultivation has grown stronger, enriching my environment while gently encouraging restoration to the artist within. When I can't make sense of life I turn to music, shutting my eyes to the material world and allowing the melodies to convey what words and logical thinking cannot. When memories of the past creep up and the familiarity of grief sets in, I set myself free via pen and paper. Today, writing, music, and singing form essential pieces along what has become an endless and transformational quest toward self-actualization.
But we can all utilize art to our benefit, and the benefit of the collective. During my very first psychedelic experience, I had a realization that every single human is an artist, only some of us are more connected to this creative instinct than others. For many, their upbringings, or social and cultural conditions have not facilitated the flourishing of these natural abilities. But I believe that no one is exempt from their unique methods for creative expression. And when we tap into these innate skills, giving our pain, joy, love, or sorrow a conduit to express, that is when true healing can occur… or a masterpiece is born.
Dust Yourself Off and Try Again
My latest journey has left me wondering if I would be able to coax these unseen parts of myself into the light sans art, music, or psychedelic medicine. I'm not so sure. But I feel deeply privileged to have access to these substances and forms that enhance my mental well-being and personal evolution.
I'm also quite fascinated by this powerful Johns Hopkins playlist and lately, have been exploring the world of classical, as well as the power behind these hypnotizing Hindu mantras. On my next journey, I will re-immerse myself again (in its rightful order of course). Until that day comes, I will be carefully integrating the lessons and encouraging newly sparked ideas to manifest into their physical form.
To you courageous readers, I invite you to step outside of your comfort zones and become the vessel for this musical medicine to possess during your next ceremony. And if I may leave you all with one piece of advice: make room for spiritual practices in your own lives so that you, too, can indulge the artist within. May art colour your surroundings the way they have mine.
Melissa is an Earth Medicine Guide and founder of Aphrodite Health, a space for women intentionally working with entheogens for healing and personal development through women’s retreats, 1:1 guidance, women's circles, and more.
Playlists mentioned in the article: