You're Approaching it Backwards
I’ve had the same experiences with no drugs just meditation. No apps. I started three years ago and committed to an hour a day for 90 days, after that i backed off a bit. I now do at least 30 minutes to an hour. I think, without drugs, ten minutes isn’t enough (at first, it is now) to “jump start.” The states take a whike to get into and it takes your mind developing awareness and focused attention. I now get into pretty “altered” states, colored fractal vision, energy fields i can feel, a sense of one with all, and even jhana a few times, I’m excited to see you discover it. My main point is for beginners who don’t have drug access is that committing to more time may get you to these states faster.
That's a good metaphor for how do explain swimming. I guess that goes for any thing. How to explain the scent a rose? Just one sniff and know it. It's too hard or almost impossible to envision what the smell is.
Nat, great post and a very interesting take. I can see how psychedelics could serve as a gateway to meditation. I experienced the same fits and starts as you and have finally started to feel that I am getting it through consistency and desire, but the idea of a 'shortcut' is appealing.
I am 29 and finally stuck to a meditation habit - not a single day missed, 20min X2 per day after trying out transcendental (mantra) meditation. The goal oriented - mantra focused nature of it I think works for my nature. Incredible benefits and have done a lot of psychedelics in years past incl ayahuasca last yr but these days just prefer meditation without anything else.
Hypnosis, Gateway Process sometimes. I am also enrolled currently in Sadhguru's Inner Engineering program where he teaches a process called as Shambavi Mahamudra. Pranayama and a lot more. Check it out you might find it interesting.
Good write up. Meditation finally stuck for me this year and it’s changed my life. 25 minutes in the morning. 30 minutes after work.
Good writeup! A ton of meditation teachers even from the original US wave in the 60's/70's got into it via psychedelics, so it's a surprisingly legible pathway, though they often don't talk about it much
Fully agree on the value of peak experiences as pointers & compass-building for regular practice
I have been on and off for daily meditation. I never had experience with psychedelics (yet), but by gradually doing meditation, I've reaped many benefits of it. Been doing this for two years. In my earlier experience, I thought meditation was such a thing that either you have it or not. Still, I realized it was a practice-like skill I could improve. So I kept on giving it a try.
Back to typical questions:
Which app did you use?
I use only Waking Up by Sam Harris. Personal preference.
How long did you meditate for?
I started only for 5-10 minutes, but as I gained the skill and reaped the benefits, I increased it to 20-30 minutes a day.
I've always started it by making myself calm through breathing. There are two methods I usually use: Time box and Cyclic breathing. Being calm is the most important part of getting to the meditative experience. During the meditation, I try not to expect something to happen. Just let it flow. I used to expect something because I had a "high" experience and wanted it to happen again, the same feeling I had when running. I bet you know the runner's high. But expecting something was a wrong idea.
There were times when I cried having done it. But somehow, it felt so good.
I like the calmness after a meditation. It's like resetting the state of mind to have more space for other things. It's good. And, I can imagine myself doing it for a long time.
My first (and unintended) experience with meditation was, to exasperate the point, absolutely accidental.
While living in Virginia Beach, VA in the late 90s, I kept biking by this "creepy white hospital looking house on the hill." One day, I finally read the placard at the beginning of the drive up to the hill. All I saw was the acronyms A.R.E.
Sometime a week later, my curiosity turned those acronyms into the Association for Research and Enlightenment. Yup, for 2 years I had no clue that I was pretty much living about 6 blocks from The Sleeping Prophets (Edgar Casey's) place ;)
Anyway, one evening I took a tour of the place by myself. I eventually entered upstairs to this super quiet and tranquil room that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean.
I just sat there in fascination. 10 minutes later, I felt my eyes close. Next thing I know I was actually in a meditative deep tranquil state.
From that point forward, the experience has allowed me to realize that, no doubt, there's nothing external really needed to tap deeper into consciousness. We just need to, often, slow down enough to just be present with our own breath; where our routine normal everyday outside world is simply shut out for a few minutes.
The rest seems to take care of itself. 🎊
Just curious Nat, what is your approach to meditating. Focus on your breath? Listening to your thoughts? Repeating a mantra?
Thank you for writing this. I could have 100% written this myself - meaning i have exactly the same experiences and thoughts. Not that I could have put it into writing as well as you did ;)
Just wanted to share that I relate and loved your article. I also forwarded it to my father. He is giving a short talk on microdosing soon and asked me for input. This kinda fit, even though it’s about meditation. We both use the waking up app, btw. Oh yeah, the „(IYKYK)“ part made me chuckle, obviously.
Ok, kids to bed now..
Greetings from Germany
All the best,
This was fascinating. I have terrible spiritual FOMO, and I have wanted to try psychedelics some time. Several months ago, I instead opted for a supervised ketamine treatment with my doctor, a second one only a couple of months ago. I wonder if this would have a similar effect alongside meditation. The way you described psilocybin in the mind is very akin to how I felt while under ketamine, and then lasting effects of understanding for a month or more after the treatment. As I was reading this, I started thinking: "Should I just try to meditate right now?"
Congrats! And thanks for spreading the word. It is an interesting thing, the relative nonpopularity of meditation, when there are plausible claims to ~nirvana/enlightenment/abiding peace and happiness independent of conditions, etc. I guess it’s because it takes a lot of work, but still... there isn’t an activity with higher expected value, if you think about it.
Personally recommend a Goenka ten day vipassana for beginners, with the primary qualifications being you can complete a one hour sit and that you’re in an psychologically stable condition (in which case maybe seek counsel from a professional and/or Buddhist). Check out dhamma.org and find one near you. Have had friends sit with zero prior experience meditating, all life-changing.
And the meditation before and after a retreat is incomparable.
Some helpful links and a book
Shorter piece, provides powerful metaphor and explanation of what meditation is: the servicing of human technical debt. Read on if that doesn’t immediately make sense.
The single greatest book on Buddhism: David Chapman’s Vividness, author of Meaningness (https://meaningness.com/), both web books (long, linked list of short articles). Vividness might be the single most impactful book I’ve read in my life. History, explainer, practicum of Vajrayana Buddhism, the youngest school of Buddhism (circa 8th century) as distinguished from Theravada as well as mainstream western Buddhism.
Roaring Silence, the mind of Dzogchen. Written by a heartbreakingly adorable and devastatingly powerful guru/lama couple. Piercing, powerful, inspiring, and super funny at times... A book about one of the pinnacle meditation practices out of Vajrayana, dzogchen
Thanks for this Nat!
Could you expand more on the "Extended silent retreat" or the "High dose" experience?
I have a medic friend, and she's totally ok with the micro-dosing with psilocybin. But I'm not so sure about how to start in the better of ways.
I have just self-published this book
It’s a quick read — intended to be a quick start guide, aimed especially at young people to begin a meditation practice
Available on Amazon for $12.99 in paperback and just $2.99 on Kindle
Would love your support
What you seem to be saying is that this state of mind is not available to anyone unwilling to incur the considerable expense and risk to one's safety in both acquiring and using an illegal mind-altering substance, not to mention the significant chance of winding up in jail.
I appreciate this post. Meditation has been a challenge for me too. I've used Headspace but nod off more times than not. I enjoy tai chi, as well as freewrite journaling/Morning Pages. The latter, three pages daily, seems to help me arrive at some level of new insight. But I feel like I am not tapping into my subconscious deep enough. If entheogens are not available in my area, I will explore silent retreats. I don't love to talk unless necessary anyway, so it may work well! -Matt