As part of preparation for a trip or holotropic breathwork, it is good to familiarize oneself with materials prepared by experienced researchers and therapists working with psychedelics. They contain many important pieces of information, advice, and experiences for the tripper. I think even experienced psychonauts should occasionally return to them and check if they behave according to them, and if not, then realize why not. There is nothing worse than adopting a “know-it-all” attitude like “I already know everything about this.” If this happens, then the person loses respect for these substances and starts to inflate their “psychonautic ego” accordingly. And that can lead to very difficult experiences in trips, not to mention neglecting integration. Therefore, I definitely recommend returning to these texts from time to time and reflecting on them with new experiences. Sometimes, in this way, we find that with the passage of time, we understand some passages much more deeply than in previous readings. And undoubtedly, we will also see that we have already forgotten some things…
There are now many instructions for trips available. For example, for the needs of research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, psychologist Bill Richards developed “Flight Instructions” for both trippers and sitters. They can be found on the website www.trippingly.net. Another very good source is the book “The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide,” published by James Fadiman in 2011.
I also strongly recommend reading the books of Stanislav Grof, where he elaborates on advice for holotropic breathwork in detail. When my wife Kateřina and I attended a large international holotropic breathwork workshop in Prague in September 2017, we were able to hear his advice directly from him. He emphasized that it is mainly necessary not to resist the experiences that come and not to demand a specific course of the session. And because there were more than 250 people in the hall, he also pointed out that no matter what happens during the session, especially if we perceive various screams, cries, or vomiting from some breathers, we need to regard these sensations as part of the process. They happen because they have a synchronistic meaning for us and our experiences at that moment.
And it is the same with a psychedelic trip. The most important thing for the person who is tripping is to trust and surrender to the whole process. Literally “surrender” – meaning to stop resisting, fearing, striving, or demanding, and simply let the whole experience flow freely and, above all, immerse oneself in it as much and completely as possible. I.e. to have full and absolute trust for the process. However, this can be very difficult for people who are used to “having everything under control” and always trying to have “their fate firmly in their own hands” everywhere and at all times.
But it’s not just about the session itself. The whole process of “opening up to the upcoming experience” starts with the decision to embark on such an endeavor. In today’s world, we all live in the grip of various fears and concerns. Therefore, it is necessary to deliberately work on “letting go” of everything in the days before the actual trip. It is definitely a good idea to have at least one full day off before the trip and “free oneself” from everyday worries.
Similar “letting go” is also very useful in the area of food – it would be good to consume only light food that will not burden the body, at least several days before the trip. Ideally, food with low tyramine content to reduce the activity of the enzyme monoamine oxidase. Perhaps something like “simple vegan gluten-free food” would be most suitable. Because meat and dairy products usually take a long time to digest, as well as excessively fatty food. However, I am aware that this topic is more complicated and very sensitive for some people, so I won’t go into it further now. In any case, it is important for the person who is tripping to completely avoid alcohol in the days before the trip because its effects are precisely opposite to the effects of psychedelic substances. If you occasionally perform cleansing enemas, it is also beneficial to do so before the trip, as it can greatly relieve the body.
Experienced psychonauts also recommend not eating anything 12 hours before the actual trip. On the other hand, a person should not experience hypoglycemia, which means that their blood sugar level should not drop too much. It seems that a “bad trip” is closely related to a too low blood sugar level. And if a person is not used to even short fasts, it can unnecessarily stress them out. So before getting into such a state, it is better to have some simple light food before the trip. Alternatively, some psychonauts drink pure grape juice on the day of the trip because this fruit contains a lot of glucose, which the body can use directly without the need for complex digestion. Fructose (known as “fruit sugar”) is problematic in this regard because the body needs to release adrenaline to digest it. Different situation is if the tripper is on a keto diet. In such a case, the body’s metabolism changes and providing glucose could actually cause a problem, as it would disrupt the state of ketosis. But I will write more about this topic later.
Part of freeing oneself from everyday bonds is also appropriate clothing for the trip. It should not be something we wear every day and associate with common worries and problems. The ideal clothing for this purpose is a comfortable “psychonautic garment” made of natural materials. Tight underwear can also be very uncomfortable during a trip. Some psychonauts, if they have the opportunity, trip completely naked. In fact, in the 60s, it was reportedly very popular, and those who tried it describe it as very liberating. In such a case, however, appropriate covers must be available because the body can easily stiffen and cool down in various stages of the trip.
Experience also shows that it is much better to trip with a sitter than alone. A good sitter creates a safe and loving space and an “anchor in reality”. Therefore, these instructions assume the presence of a sitter. But in such a case, the synergy between the tripper and the sitter is of course highly important. Without “good mutual chemistry”, it simply won’t work. Therefore, it is necessary for the tripper and the sitter to meet at least once before the actual session and discuss various important details. It is necessary to agree on the choice of music and the extent of lighting, but it is also necessary to discuss what extent of physical contact is most suitable for the tripper. I discuss this issue more in the “flight instructions for the sitter”.
It is also desirable for the tripper to rest well before the actual session. It would definitely be good if they could avoid watching television and, above all, get a good night’s sleep. On the day of the trip, it is in any case necessary to avoid being distracted by anything else if possible.
Before consuming a psychoactive substance, it is advisable to perform at least a small short ceremony, and the acceptance of the substance should also have a certain ritual form – as I have already written in the instructions for sitters. After taking the substance, it is necessary to relax as much as possible and immerse oneself in the gradually intensifying psychedelic state of consciousness. However, it is clear that especially for the first time, entering into an expanded state of consciousness can be quite difficult for the tripper. For example, some people may experience various pressures in the face or stomach discomfort during the onset of effects, which can initially also evoke fears. Whenever something like this happens, even later during the trip, it is a sign that an even deeper phase of immersion is occurring. And it is therefore necessary to relax even more at that moment and immerse oneself even more into the experiences.
Gradual weakening of the ego and detachment from normal daily identity may also be frightening for someone at first moments because this is how our culture usually imagines death – as the absolute end of personal existence. But in reality, this is where the really interesting part begins. Because only when we really experience strong depersonalization from our everyday ego can we truly glimpse our worries and fears in a new and unbiased way.
In these phases of immersion into significant internal changes, it may happen that the tripper needs some form of physical contact with the sitter. Sometimes just holding hands is enough, but as I mentioned before, it depends on mutual agreement between both parties. This creates some kind of “anchor point”, and the tripper does not have to be afraid of getting “lost” in their inner world. Also, not everyone is able to trip or do holotropic breathing with a mask on their eyes for the whole time, as many people need at least occasional “control” visual contact with reality in these experiences.
At a certain point, feelings and images will start to come much faster than one can think them through. Therefore, it is necessary to give up the effort to analyze them and simply experience them. However, during the trip, various fears and heavy experiences from the past can also “materialize” into symbolic forms of monsters. Alternatively, various passages, doors, or literally “holes into the dark void” may appear in the visions before the tripper. In such cases, experienced therapists’ flight instructions advise you to follow them. Explore them. Ask those monsters why they are inside you. But take everything purely symbolically. They are images created by consciousness and the subconscious and have their meaning in the trip. And it is necessary to find out what that meaning is. The same vision can bring a different lesson to everyone.
Terence McKenna used to say that first trips are usually very visually beautiful and uplifting. He specifically spoke about mushrooms, saying that they are particularly kind to beginners. However, if a person trips repeatedly, deeper and more profound issues will begin to reveal themselves, and those trips can be much more challenging both during and after the experience. As he said, mushrooms know everything about us, so their demands on us will gradually increase.
Therefore, if someone is undertaking repeated psychedelic experiences, it is even more important to be willing to accept everything that comes and not expect a repetition of previous pleasant experiences. Each trip is different, and it is always true that it gives us what we need, not what we want. We are always working with the contents of our personal or collective subconscious, so repeated trips take us to deeper levels and uncover more deeply buried traumas. And it is usually the case that the more traumatic an experience is for us, the deeper we have pushed it down over the years. Therefore, difficult experiences in repeated trips should be welcomed as very important because it means we are working with much more serious traumas.
If the tripper stops liking the music they are listening to at any point during the experience, it is better to ask for a different one or turn it off completely – if that is what the tripper feels is best in that moment. On the other hand, music is usually very important because it helps the tripper to separate from their usual thoughts and immerse themselves better in the experience. And it is precisely the associations evoked by the music that can be a significant catalyst for the experience.
During the session, it is also common for the tripper to start feeling surges of strong suppressed emotions. In such cases, it is desirable to let them express themselves freely. Because it is precisely the suppressed emotions – whether it is laughter, crying, wailing, anger, or fear – that are the most common guides to our inner traumas. And their free expression is often the most important therapeutic effect of the trip. An experienced sitter understands this well, so there is no need to worry that they will condemn or block such expressions. Their only task in such moments is to make sure that the tripper does not harm themselves. Again – I write more about this in the instructions for sitters.
After several hours, the main effects of the substance begin to fade, and the trip gradually weakens, and the tripper slowly “returns to the ground”. In this part of the session, it is possible to behave much more freely, but it is still very valuable. For example, it can be used to better understand family problems, etc. The person tripping is still in strong contact with their subconscious, and during this phase, they may experience a kind of “clairvoyant insights” into different situations and people’s behavior.
After several hours, the main effects of the substance begin to fade, and the trip gradually weakens, and the tripper slowly “returns to the ground”. In this part of the session, it is possible to behave much more freely, but it is still very valuable state of mind. For example, it can be used to better understand family problems, etc. The tripper is still in strong contact with their subconscious, and during this phase, they may experience a kind of “clairvoyant insights” into different situations and people’s behavior.
Therefore, at this point, it is interesting to sensitively and without haste discuss, for example, complex family or job related constellations. It is for example useful if the tripper brings photos for this part. They will help them tune better into family members. During this “meditation” on problems when the trip is fading, various problems that trouble the tripper may unexpectedly become clear, or they may better understand people they will be thinking about thanks to their “insights”. Therefore, this part of the trip is also important and will certainly enrich experiences from the main part synchronistically.
After returning from the main part of the trip, the tripper may feel the need to eat. Especially if the trip was very emotional, they may also be physically exhausted. Some people feel the need to eat something salty, while others may want something sweet. It is difficult to predict. In any case, it should be some very simple, ideally not too much processed food. It is difficult to give general advice in this regard, as everyone is different.
After the whole trip is over, it is necessary not to immediately plunge into everyday problems. It is better to reserve one full day after the trip for writing down and thinking about the experiences and, above all, not to rush to conclusions. In the following days and weeks, it is also very useful to pay more attention to further experiences because they usually have some relationship to the content of the trip and help to clarify various details and connections. More on this in texts on integration.