Psychedelics get a bad rap. During the ’60s in the USA, the time of Woodstock and anti-Vietnam war protests, the conversation on psychedelics blossomed into the public eye. Most people at the time associated mushrooms with naked women dancing and scary looking bearded men screaming bloody murder on the streets. Like anything else that was misunderstood, mushrooms have been dragged through the mud by the media, misrepresented by scientists, and condemned by religious groups. This created a polarity in opinion. To some, mushrooms were a path to higher consciousness, one that rose above authority and violence. To others, psychedelics were a gateway to insanity, anarchy, and devil worship.
Clearly on the side of the latter, Ronald Reagan launched a war on drugs in the ’70s and made LSD, psilocybin and mescaline SUPER illegal. This sent a lot of anti-war protestors, artists, working-class people, and people of colour to jail.
In America, at least, both the condemnation and romanticising of mushrooms has calmed down. Thank goodness. It’s to the point where I am totally comfortable telling anyone and everyone that I microdose, without fear of being labelled either a cult follower or Zen master. As a society, we’re slowly allowing ourselves to take a less heated, more honest and practical look at the stuff. Yes, it can get you super high and sure you can have a bad experience, but can’t you say the same thing about alcohol, or even love? Like anything that requires balance in life, understanding and intentionality are key when entering a relationship with mushrooms. Personally, I am a HUGE fan of microdosing. As a young artist growing up in a city, shrooms, acid, weed, all of it was part of my life as a teenager. Back then, we indulged in everything with the goal to blow our brains up. What I’m learning now is that not everything has to be used to its extreme. Now, I get the most out of mushrooms by taking them a little at a time. That’s all that microdosing really entails.
Yeah, I’ve done the ‘mushroom trip,’ and I won’t lie, it was insanely fun. I romped around my childhood schoolyard, investigating memories with an acute sense of adventure. I’ve always seen the world through a ‘magical’ lens, but on shrooms, it was saturated with the feeling of wonder. Truly indescribable. On other less intense trips, I’ve felt giggly, light and imaginative. I’ve never had a bad trip, just gotten insanely thirsty, but I’ve heard it can happen. I believe that shrooms, when taken in large doses, have the ability to uncover deep-seated fear inside us. There’s a reason they’ve been used for healing for thousands of years. When doing any kind of drug, it’s important to look inside yourself and listen. Your body will tell you if you are ready. Follow that, not what your friends are telling you. Just because you have already done mushrooms and were ready the first time, doesn’t mean you’re automatically ready again. Listen to your intuition.
Here’s the thing about microdosing though (spoiler alert, I microdosed this morning). You’re only taking a very small amount of mushrooms. Whether it’s still in cap and stem form, or already pre-dosed in gummies or pills meant for especially for microdosing, you’re not going to get any visuals. You’re not going to have that consciousness trip. Gummies and pills are great because they’re formulated so that you don’t have to dose yourself. If you’re a new microdoser, be sure to check out the instructions. As for cap and stem microdosing, things can get a little tricky. I recently ‘microdosed’ only to look at my hands two hours later and feel like they were breathing. I wasn’t tripping, but I was higher than expected. The thing about cap and stem mushrooms is that potency is incredibly variant. One cap can have twice the psilocybin (that’s the psychoactive in shrooms) as its brother cap, and when it comes to different batches? There’s even more of a difference. If you’re microdosing with caps and stems, I would highly suggest to under-dose to start off.
“Microdosing isn’t an epic spiritual experience, but it is a calming slow release of peace; the heightened ability to be present and aware of life as it happens around you”.
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When you get it right though, the benefits of microdosing are astronomical. The feeling I have, and what I have heard from others who microdose, is a general sense of calm. While ‘wellbeing’ is an overused word in the wellness industry, that’s almost the only thing that can describe it. It just feels like everything is ok. You don’t feel high, you don’t get visuals, but the world feels a little less scary. For me, I can slow down and see the beauty in everything.
I recently hiked up a mountain and swam in a mountain stream after microdosing with about a .2 shroom. I remember sitting on a rock in the sun feeling like there was no place I would rather be. When a friend called me over, I didn’t even want to go. I was so content. Content is a good word to describe it. It allows you to focus on whatever you’re experiencing without judging it or applying mental patterns to it. For friends of mine who suffer from ADHD, they have said it allows them to focus on the task at hand. No, micro-dosing isn’t an epic spiritual experience, but it is a calming slow release of peace. The heightened ability to be present and aware of life as it happens around you.
I know that so many people experience a general background of discomfort in their day to day lives. It’s the feeling like you are bound to every one of your thoughts and emotions. You feel disconnected from the world, and from yourself, lost in your own thought and confusion. For me, microdosing mushrooms helps me come out of that, into the present moment. It allows me to feel the joy in being alive. I’m lucky to be able to experience this kind of peace and presence without mushrooms, but I have also an anxiety disorder, and it flares up on occasion. It’s during these times when microdosing is more than just a great time, it’s a coping mechanism.
I’m going through one of those flare-ups now. I wake up every morning nauseous, with racing thoughts, a sense of dread, and a super dry mouth that no amount of water can cure. When I microdose, the mushrooms calm my body more than anything else. It’s not about enhancing an experience in the mountains, it’s something to curb these physical symptoms. Of course, the cure is the same as what I experience in the mountains, simple presence and an ability to bring my awareness into the now.
I’m happy to say that studies supporting psilocybin’s ability to treat depression and anxiety are really kicking off, and the findings are overwhelmingly positive. Coming from total condemnation in the public eye, to the possibility of legalisation and use in medicine and therapy is huge. But the story of mushrooms doesn’t start with western medicine, and it definitely cannot end there.
The first evidence of mushroom use goes back as far as 10,000 BCE in Australia. There are literally cave drawings that look like ‘trippy’ posters you would find on the inside of a tour van. Drawings of ancient animals whose bodies are swirling all around, antlers reaching up into the heavens. If that’s not a trip I do not know what is.
In ancient Central and South America, mushrooms were ritually used in ceremonies for healing and divination. In Aztec and Mayan culture, mushrooms or “teonanacatl” were part of their spirituality. They had a god called “Seven Flowers,” the Mixtec god of hallucination, who was depicted carrying mushrooms in each hand. When the Spaniards colonised the Americas and forced the puritanical Catholic church onto these cultures, these kinds of rituals were seen as barbaric and evil and totally wiped out.
So, the gap between recreational and medical is closing THANKFULLY! Mushrooms are no longer evil and scary. But there is a link between Ronald Reagan’s war on drugs and the Spaniards early erasure of Native American culture and that is that they are both puritanical, colonising forces. America has been killing indigenous people and their spiritual and healing practices long before the ‘60s when psychoactives gained traction in pop culture. In America, and all over the world, the erasure of indigenous peoples and their practices must be acknowledged as we move forward in the ‘acceptance’ and incorporation of mushrooms into widespread practices. We need to ask ourselves: Who can participate? Who profits?
Going forward, I hope we can step away from fear-based laws and colonial-inspired criminalisation of plants, and focus on finding real ways to help people and reconnect with age-old practices of spirituality and natural medicine. That being said, as long as indigenous communities continue to be erased around the world, the introduction of mushrooms into modern medicine will only be another form of colonisation and theft. As we move towards a more practical understanding of microdosing and mushrooms in healing, we need to acknowledge the roots of the practice and fight for the sovereignty of indigenous people around the world, for their ability to practice their own rituals without fear.