Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on November 7, 2014

I will try to make this my last post on the psychedelics, at least for a while, and you might think these drugs would be polar opposites to the mind training that I work with now. However, believe it or not, mind-altering drugs like LSD have some natural affinity with Tibetan Mind training practices in that they both can reveal the actual nature of the mind (to some degree), something that other kinds of drugs (like marijuana) don't do or do very poorly. Marijuana is mind-altering, yes, but not really psychedelic, at least as I define the term.

LSD is obviously not merely an entertainment drug or, if it is, as our friend Bill Maher might say, it takes place in "Real Time." LSD entertains us completely, including swallowing the Self whole and without a hiccup. The Self is often the chief target (and victim) of psychedelic insights.

And while meditation techniques tend to reveal the nature of the mind gradually, LSD exposed an entire generation to at least a glimpse of the mind's nature, revealing very clearly the subject/object duality that we are all pretty much lost in. Tibetan Buddhist Meditation practice gradually reveals the entire landscape of the mind's nature, not just a glimpse. My point is that LSD was much more than just another way to get high.

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Back in the early 1960s, meditation techniques were taught in only a few places in North America and were mostly unavailable to those of us struggling to emerge from the cocoon-mentality of the 1950s. And back then meditation was not recognized as the transformative force it is today. Just as with LSD, we didn't know much what meditation was all about either.

This is why mind-altering drugs like LSD were so important back in the early 1960s. They unbound our minds, which were too tightly wrapped, and gave us the singular insight that we were essentially pinching ourselves, causing our own suffering. In my case, LSD first experientially (not abstractly) exposed for me the falseness of the duality of subject and object, perceiver and perceived, and made it clear that to a marked degree they were one and the same. I finally saw that, of all people, I was my own worst enemy. What a revelation!

In other words, through acid my generation began to see that our internal biases and prejudices were being projected onto the outward world like a movie, which we then watched in rapt attention and took it as reality. This was a tight closed-loop until I first took acid in May of 1964. I had never been out-of-the-box, not even for a glimpse, and suddenly there I was. It changed me forever because it was clear that if I could change how I saw things, the things I saw would change too. I could improve my world rather than be just subject to it, a victim of my own obscurations.

Some say that LSD magically appeared at the time it was most needed in history to speed up the mind's opening and jump-start the 1960s. For me it was more than just a materialistic event. I have a clear memory of experiencing something very much akin to a direct-voice transmission from "above" (inside me) to the effect that I had a choice. I could either rapidly open the mind at the expense of losing some of my finer-mesh memories or I could preserve the memories but open the mind much more slowly. This direct-voice actually took place. I chose opening the mind quickly, because life without that would have amounted to very little more than an extension of the mindset of the 1950s, and having "finer" memories of that time interested me not at all. The 1950s were prophylactic, like having my mind coated with oil, a film that I could not see or taste through, and I needed to breatheā€¦ authentic life.

In the beginning, my generation felt stifled and constrained by the mores of the 1950s mentality. We needed clarity and some fresh air, a life with fewer filters, with next to nothing between us and reality, so to speak -- no filmy veneer of morality codes. We needed some skin on skin. In addition, we soon found that the front door to society was effectively blocked to us by the extreme conservatism of the 1950s and the boxed-in sense of reality that came with that view. And we wanted out of the box.

Therefore, children of the Sixties, like myself, came in through society's back door by "inventing" things like the Internet, something not ever envisioned, much less controlled, by mainstream society. And that society was so clueless as to the power of the Internet that they allowed us to simply walk-in and take over without a fight. They laughed at our long hair and "geekiness," but they did not consider us any real kind of threat because we did not want the kind of power they had. In other words, they just did not correctly value the Internet or see it coming, but we did. We basically invented our own form of society. We found a way, our way, to share power and knowledge in a more democratic way. For example, I had email in 1979. Imagine that!

And now I want to look at how LSD impacted our sense of Self back in the day. The problem (then as now) finally boils down to a lack of familiarity on our part with the actual nature of our own mind, familiarity that we have never had. It is still true today. And glimpses or peeks at the mind's nature via LSD (figuratively-speaking) had what amounted to a pornographic effect (which was very disruptive) on the status-quo of our overly-sanitized 1950s sense-of-Self.

It is fair to say that the Self exists in a kind of vacuum, hermetically sealed from anything that would be upsetting. It is a one-way valve, letting the things we like in and keeping everything else out. Functionally, the Self pretty much defines the concept of duality. And just like when we crack the seal on home-made canned goods and there is a mighty pop, breaking open the seal of the self instantly lets all kinds of fresh air in (and stale air out), and this initiates an attrition of change (and needed adjustment) that is long overdue. It is obvious that the arch-conservative Self does not like any change that it does not personally approve. In other words, the Self is a control freak when it comes to keeping up appearances.

The Tibetan Buddhists point out that the true nature of the mind is almost totally obscured by our own ignorance and confusion, not to mention the endless accumulation of obscurations and bad habits, of which our attachment to the self is probably number one.

Drugs like LSD pop that hermetic seal of the Self very suddenly and all hell breaks loose. Meditation and mind training do the same thing, but very gradually, thus avoiding the shock of re-stabilization that drugs require. Either way, something of the true nature of the mind is revealed, but the violence of drugs (like LSD) on the self only serves to further confuse the issue and add years to the process of re-stabilization. I can testify to this.

As a counselor, for many years I specialized in those who became destabilized by mind-altering drugs like LSD and could not manage to re-stabilize. They became casualties of psychedelic insight. Oddly enough, in those folks, the Self manages to get ahold of what was seen on LSD and seal it off from the further change that such insight usually enables, with the result that the revelations that the hallucinogens inspired are confiscated, incorporated by the Self, and end up only serving as further proof that he or she is "unique" or special, a uniqueness maintained at the expense of being able to ever openly exchange with others. To put it another way, instead of using the insights of acid to free the mind, the Self can aggrandize those insights to point out how they make the person unique and extraordinary, a perfect trap and a lonely life.

The analogy that I like is that of finally having a breath of fresh air and then holding that breath to keep from losing the inspiration. Life eventually has to punch us in the gut just to get us breathing again, much like the newborn baby is slapped on the butt by the midwife to help it start crying and thereby breathing.

This solipsistic response to drug-inspired insight ("the boy in the bubble") on the part of the Self can be very difficult to penetrate. The remedy for this that I found effective in counseling is to manage to get the client's attention and prove to them by proximity that they are, in fact, not alone, not all that unique or special, and that others have had the same experience before it ever occurred to them. In other words, their experience is normal and even common. This is good news to the soul, but bad news to the controlling self.
And the solipsistic "Self" hates to hear this and fights it all the way, while at the same time the client's inner soul take a deep breath of fresh air and is relieved to know they are not all alone. Once the tight seal of the Self is broken as to their being in any way "unique" from other folks through their "special" LSD experience, the bubble is popped and their isolation is ruined; they begin to come out of it and rejoin the rest of society, albeit sometimes begrudgingly.

This, of course, is what shamans are all about, soul retrieval, and this is essentially therapy, which takes time. A much more effective way to grasp the true nature of the mind is through the standard Tibetan Buddhist meditation practices. These methods are safe and efficient, but they still take time.

To wrap this up, after years of study and contemplation, mixed with conversations with others from the Sixties, it is clear to me (and to these folks) that the advent of psychedelic drugs like LSD, Mescaline, psilocybin, and so on was a principle, if not "the" principle cause of what we call the 1960s. I know, not everyone took acid back then, but a great many leaders of that generation did and their insights rubbed off on those who did not, just as second hand smoke from marijuana can get you a little high.

And no, LSD did not bring the kind of awareness that Tibetan Buddhist mind training has, but what I saw on acid was a glimpse of the true nature of how the mind worked, at least it punctured the bad dream I was having, in which I was a victim alone in this world. On acid I saw that I was at least the co-creator of my own world, and that much of what I saw out there that threatened me was projected exactly by my uptight controlling Self from in-here. Once that bubble was popped and "the boy in the bubble" was free, I could clearly see that there was something that I could do to change this world I saw, rather than just be subject to it as a victim.

I now had a differential that could be worked to enact change within myself. In other words, I saw for the first time (and realized!) that the dualism of the subject (me) and the object (outer world) were in fact not separate, but rather were a tag team working closely together to make me a victim of my own delusions.

In that night, on May 6th of 1964, when I first dropped acid, the spell of a lifetime was broken, and I was free to change my conditions. This same illusion of duality and its solution is identical to what Tibetan mind-training methods reveal about dualisms, down to the finest detail.

The problem with LSD, at least for me, was that once I had the realizations it offered, I had no support network, much less a methodology or graduated path of instruction to organize and repair the shock to the system that the insights on acid revealed. It took me many years to stabilize what I saw on LSD, and it took years of mind-training after that to finish the job.

That being said, those initial insights back in the early 1960s from LSD were accurate and a whole generation (the 1960s) emerged from their stifling cocoons at about the same time. I like to think we were butterflies, not locusts.