A Quick Guide To Psilocybin Mushrooms For Personal Growth

Psilocybin mushrooms, also known as magic mushrooms, shrooms or as I will simply call them from here on  out, mushrooms, is usually the first psychedelic or plant medicine that people experience.  That is for good reason.  It’s cheap, safe, the effects are usually gentle and the experience/high only lasts for 3-6 hours typically.  Without professional assistance, such as a shaman or a retreat, mushrooms are one of the best bets for psychedelic personal development.  It’s safe, easy to measure out dosage and the experiences are more gentle then something like bofu or ayahuasca(again, usually).  Let’s dive in.

A Quick History

Mushrooms have been used across many cultures and throughout time.  Prehistoric

 to its widespread and long term use.  In ‘modern’ society the practice died off until the 1950s when it was reintroduced to western culture through the indigenous people in Mexico.  It quickly made its way to psychotherapists who were amazed at the results.  Many studies were performed and there was incredible excitement in the therapeutic world.  Unfortunately the 1960s resulted in a culture clash and mushrooms, despite the incredibly healing properties and much to the chagrin of psychotherapists, were made just as illegal as highly addictive, dangerous substances such as heroin. 

 cave paintings throughout the globe, such as in California or Algeria, are a testament

The good news is there has been a resurgence and currently, as of February 2022, there is a synthetic psilocybin currently in Phase 3 FDA trials.  

How Safe Is It?

Mushrooms are very safe.  In fact, according to the Global Drug Survey it’s the safest recreational substance there is, even safer than marijuana and significantly safer than alcohol.  Fatal overdose is thought to be almost impossible with mushrooms.  It is possible to take enough to have a bad experience, however, so I recommend taking a look at the dosage guide I have further on in this article.  In general medical intervention is only necessary if mushrooms are taken with other substances or proper set, setting and sitter practices are not adhered to.  For example, if someone takes mushrooms while in the desert at an EDM festival they might end up getting dangerously dehydrated or they might get disoriented and fall and hurt themselves.  In both these cases it isn’t the mushrooms themselves that are the issues but the behavior of the users.

Dosage Guide

  • Microdose: .1g-.25g
  • Low Dose: .5g-1g
  • Medium Dose: 1g-3g
  • High Dose: 3g-4g
  • Heroic Dose: 4g+

These are the typical doses.  Most people want to stick around the medium dose and for your first experience most people go on the lower end of medium at 1.5g-2g.  Doing a higher dose doesn’t mean you will have a better experience.  The more you do the more intense it will be and if you don’t have some experience you might find it too disconcerting to get any value from it.

How To Have The Safest and Most Effective Experience

Sitter

With any psychedelic or plant medicine journey I always highly recommend having a sitter.  It lets you get totally involved in your own experience without having to worry about anything else.  If it’s your first time it’s even more important because the experience can be disorienting.  A sitter can help you get you anything you need, like food or water, help ground you or just take care of the mundane things like answering the door if someone shows up unexpectedly or letting the dog out.  If you decide to go to a retreat they will provide both guides and sitters for you.  

Ideally your sitter will have some experience but if they don’t just let them know to be within hearing distance in case you need anything.  They don’t need to stay in the same room with you for the entire experience.  In fact, it’s best if they mostly leave you alone so you can concentrate on your experience.  Make sure it’s someone you can trust completely.

Setting

When under the influence of psychedelics you are very susceptible to the whims of your environment.  It’s very important that you take the time to set up your space before undergoing a  journey.  This will set yourself up for the best possible experience.  If you have a chaotic environment with a lot of noise you will be pulled into space.  Below are some tips that I find to be a very effective setup:

  • Use a darkened room that you can lay down or recline in
  • Keep the room at a comfortable temperature.  It’s better to have it slightly cooler than normal because you can always use a blanket or two.  Some people feel a bit warm when on mushrooms.
  • Make sure any pets or children will be taken care of and out of the way(a cat or dog laying on bed with you is fine)
  • Have a decent pair of headphones 
  • Have a playlist ready.  I can recommend using this YouTube video(if you can use it ad free) or you can use this MAPS playlist that is on Spotify
  • Don’t eat anything 2 hours before your experience.  If you do need to eat something, make it very light.  Food in your stomach can delay the onset of the journey.  Additionally, some people can feel a little nausea so an empty stomach can help with that.
  • Have food available if you get hungry during the experience.  I suggest having a fruit salad available.  It will taste amazing.  Trust me.

Setting an Intention

In order to get the most out of your experience it’s very important to set an intention.  This can set your experience up to possibly go in the direction you want.  I say possibly because ultimately your mind and the medicine will go where they want.  You can think of it like this.  If you watch a tv show that has tigers in it right before bed then you are much more likely to have a tiger show up in your dreams.

There aren’t any wrong intentions.  I prefer to keep them fairly vague. Here are some example intentions:

  • I want to cultivate more joy.
  • I want to be at peace with a past trauma
  • What is holding me back?
  • Why am I so unhappy?
  • What is my purpose in life?
  • How do I be a better <husband, wife, father, daughter, son, etc>

There are an infinite amount of other intentions available.  If you can’t choose, don’t worry about it too much.  Another completely valid intention is “Show me what I need to see.”

This next part is key and a piece that some people often miss.  Once your experience starts you need to let go of the intention.  If you hold on to it too tightly it will act as resistance and your experience might be impacted.  You will run into the age old problem of not being able to see the forest through the trees.  If your experience takes you to some other places don’t worry.  Ultimately you are seeing what your mind thinks is important once it’s barriers and self-limiting beliefs are stripped away.  In some cases the images and experiences will be so abstract that they won’t seem like that are inline with your intention only to find out later as you process the experience you got exactly what you asked for.  I had one experience that I didn’t fully process until almost 2 years later and realized it was in line with my intention all along.  Luckily most experiences can be processed much faster.

Timing

The amount of time it can take for the mushroom effects to kick in can vary based on body weight and what’s in your stomach.  I have had them start kicking in about 20 minutes in and I’ve had it take over an hour.  No matter what, DO NOT REDOSE.  This is a very common mistake people make with any edible substance.  They wait 30 minutes, nothing happens and get impatient and then have some more.  Sometimes they repeat again.  Then it kicks in and you have a lot more than you bargained for.  It’s much, much better to simply wait and if it doesn’t kick in for some reason you try again another time.  This isn’t some theory I am preaching here.  I know because I learned the hard way.

While experiences vary when it starts kicking in I start to feel a bit more energetic and a bit ‘tingly’.  This is usually my indication to get in bed, put on my sleeping mask, turn on my music and just let everything go.

Below is the general timing but as I stated above it can vary greatly depending on the individual and how the individual is doing at the time.

  • 20-60 minutes in – Onset
  • 1-2 hours in – Slow increase in intensity
  • 2-4 hours in – Peak experience
  • 4-6 hours – Gentle comedown

After the experience there is an afterglow effect that can last for a few hours up to a couple days or even weeks.

Mushrooms, and psychedelics in general, tend to make it hard to fall asleep.  For this reason I suggest you give at least 8 hours between when you eat the mushrooms and when you plan on going to bed.  My personal experience is that I always preferred starting around mid-morning so that by the time the afternoon came around I was back down to earth, reveling in the afterglow and having waking hours to process my experience.  I usually wouldn’t journal anything until the next day.

What’s A Mushroom Trip Like?

Have you ever heard someone talk about their mushroom or other psychedelic experience and they can’t seem to convey the experience, perhaps pausing a lot and shaking their heads?  Or perhaps they seem so far out there, like perhaps an even more extreme version of Russell Brand(who is 100% sober btw), that you think they are ridiculous?  There is a reason for that.  

Psychedelic experiences are so intense that words are a poor tool to describe them.  When psychedelics were introduced into the modern world, scientists actually hired Aldous Huxley, author of A Brave New World,  to undergo an experience and then describe it.  He went through with it and wrote the book Doors to Perception which still, in my experience, falls short.  Music is actually a better tool but with music you just get the feeling rather than a detailed picture.  I am saying all of this just so you understand that I am not even going to try to paint you a word picture of what an experience is like.  Not only do the limitations on words become an issue but everyone’s experience is different.

That being said, here is an effort to describe it from start to end.

I set up my space as described above.  I set my intention.  I eat the amount of mushrooms I choose and then I wait.  Some spend this time meditating, which isn’t bad, but I usually just engage in my usual hobbies until I get a signal(I suggest you stay in your space for your first few experiences).  About an hour after ingesting the mushrooms I start to feel an energy swelling up.  It can be a bit tingly or perhaps my legs don’t want to sit still.  It’s quickly followed by a feeling of being more connected, open and joyful.  At this time I head to my bed, put on my sleeping mask and start playing the music I have chosen.  Images and immersive experiences don’t appear immediately so I tend to focus on just relaxing.  Steadily, things start to happen behind my eyes.  Geometric shapes, colors and flowing images start to appear.  Around this time the sense of time and the sense of self start to break down.  If I took enough mushrooms both of them will disintegrate completely which sounds unpleasant to the uninitiated but is actually tremendously euphoric.  Subtly the images start to make more sense until I am seeing very distinct objects and am being pulled in both visually and emotionally.  While I am not actively trying to analyze anything, something in the back of my mind is whispering interpretations that I would never be able to come up with when left to my own devices.  Oftentimes it feels like I am in the audience of a great play that is being put on just for me.  Sometimes it’s fully abstract, such as geometric indigenous beings trying to tell me why everything is right whereas other times people in my life will appear and I’ll have insights on our relationships or come to a complete understanding on why that person is the way they are and love them for it.  

Once the experience starts to dwindle or my playlist ends I’ll take off my mask.  Sometimes there are still some minor visuals going on, for example my cat turned into a little, sad face girl selling flowers during the depression.  If I am hungry, I will eat the prepared food which will taste amazing and will fill you with an amazing amount of gratitude.  If I am not hungry I might engage in another activity such as playing guitar or, since we have a decent amount of private land, go for a walk if I have someone with me.  Even just petting a cat is an experience.  

As the effects totally fade away I am left feeling light and relaxed.  Sometimes I am ready to talk about the experience immediately whereas other times I need to keep it inside and ponder it for a day or two.  The rest of my day I am usually taking it easy because the amount of energy expended by the brain to create that experience feels more draining then vigorous exercise.

But that is my experience.  My brain works in a very visual way when I let it work the way it wants so I tend to have a visual heavy experience.  Other people just see colors.  Others might get more emotional, tactile or have a more auditory experience.  Most people will have a healthy mix of all those.

How Often Should You Use Mushrooms?

There isn’t really a correct answer on how often you SHOULD do mushrooms but there is a correct answer on how much time to give between experiences.  Our bodies build up a tolerance to psilocybin immediately and it takes 2 weeks for you to come back down to baseline.  Outside of visiting a retreat which has a special, time-tested program in place at a minimum you want to give at least 2 weeks between experiences just so your body’s tolerances come back down to baseline.  But….

In reality, I recommend waiting at least 2 months.  Mushrooms, and other psychedelics, aren’t a medicine in the sense that you take it magically fixes things.  You can instantly feel better and those afterglow effects can really feel like you are cured but the real magic happens by integrating what you learned into real life.  If you are doing mushrooms every 2 weeks you aren’t giving time to integrate your experiences and they will lose their magic.

Once you become more experienced you will start to notice when the appropriate time has come.  It will feel like a calling and the space between sessions might be many months or years apart.  It’s been quite some time since my last experience because the reality is I am in the middle of a growth spurt from my last experience.  I’ll know when the time is right for my next one and as you gain experience you will as well.

Integration

Integration is the most important part of your experience.  While the mushroom trip might feel like the start and end of the journey the reality is it’s just the first step.  If you don’t focus on integrating the things you learned you will not experience lasting change.  While you might come out the other side feeling like it’s a whole new world nothing has changed for anyone else.  You still have your job, you still have your existing relationships, habits, hobbies, routines, etc.  The world has created a mold for you to fit in.  You might have escaped it but if you don’t make the effort to enact lasting change you will find yourself right back in that mold.  It’s a hard thing to break out of.  

There are 3 recommendations I have when working on integration.  They each have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

The first option would be an integration circle.  This is usually a group of people who meet, often online these days, who talk about their experiences in a safe, non-judgmental environment.  The biggest advantage of these are that they are typically free.  The disadvantage is that they might not be run by someone who has proper training and allow other people to insert their biases on top of your experiences which is a major issue.

The second option would be an integration therapist.  A good integration therapist can help a lot when it comes to dealing with trauma or deep rooted mental health issues.  The advantage is that they are professionally trained to explore your past without bringing their own biases into your experience.  The disadvantage is availability, price and they can be limited by legalities. While laws obviously vary across the globe, here in the US a therapist is licensed by their state so they can’t remotely treat you outside the state they are licensed in.  Additionally, these therapist are often in high demand and can have a monumental waiting list.  Part of me is happy that so many people are seeking therapy but it shows how woefully inadequate our mental health infrastructure is.

The third option would be integrative coaching.  A good integration coach will help you explore your experience without inserting their own bias, help you explore what you want the future to look like and then help you come up with a way to turn that into a reality.  The advantages of a good, trained coach is that they have a lot of experience with helping people turn their thoughts, intentions and wants into a reality.  They also tend to be  more available than therapists.  But, and I say this as a coach, there are some disadvantages.  The first is that they aren’t free.  While prices vary and, luckily, many integration coaches are dedicated to helping people so keep their prices low it might be out of the reach for some.  The second, and this is the one that sours my apples, is that coaching isn’t a regulated field so anyone can call themselves a coach and open up a business.  This means there are a lot of untrained coaches out there who can do more harm than good.  The key to get around this is to do research on the coach before you hire them or ask for a quick consultation call and ask how they avoid having their own biases affect your time together. 

If you are looking for a coach it would be prudent for me to say that I am a trained and certified psychedelic integration coach. I can guarantee and promise that I will respect your experiences as your own and I never bring judgment or any biases to the coaching space.  My goal and life purpose is to help people so even if I am currently not accepting clients or our time zones don’t line up contact me anyway and I will help you find a coach that works for you.  Feel free to contact me here about anything related to coaching.

How Do I Get Mushrooms?

Legality is different all over the world so the first thing you want to do is consult your local laws.  Here in the USA it’s still considered a hard drug and you can face jail time over it, though law enforcement seems to not care too much about them unless you are dealing.  I cannot help you illegally obtain mushrooms.  I don’t sell, offer them or even keep them on hand.  Don’t even ask.  

Mushroom spores are legal in most of the USA as long as you plan on using them for science so if you are growing them for research purposes you can order them online and grow them yourself.  

I have heard of some using the dark web to order them but I cannot provide a guide with this as I am not familiar with it and it is illegal.

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty with the potential legal issues then your best bet is to look up psilocybin mushroom retreats and book a stay where it is legal.  If you choose to go this route you CAN contact me about this and I can recommend one but I will only recommend ones that are in compliance with local laws and they will likely be outside of your country of residence.

I can’t stress enough that you should not contact me about obtaining them illegally for yourself.  I simply won’t respond.  Yeah, it’s stupid they are illegal but that doesn’t mean I don’t follow the law.

In Conclusion

While I could write an entire book on mushrooms, their history, the facilitation of the experience  and their profound ability to produce changes, this article should give you a good idea of how they work and what to expect.  If you are interested in something more in depth I recommend the following two books:

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide by James Fadiman

Ultimately if you do you research, prepare properly and then take the time to integrate your experience properly you will find that it might one of the most influential moments in your life.

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