Kensho is the Japanese term for a spiritual breakthrough, a temporary, fleeting taste of enlightenment. On medium to high doses of DMT and other potent psychedelics such as LSD, mescaline or psilocybin, you can also experience breakthroughs to a radically altered state of consciousness, something that Jim Morrison and The Doors were famously keen to do (if you’re too young to get that reference, never mind).

Breakthrough is never guaranteed. But it can be facilitated by creating the right conditions. And there are different kinds of breakthrough. The Zen breakthrough to non-dual consciousness is not the same thing as a breakthrough to resolving psychological trauma, for example.

Zazen (sitting meditation) in a Buddhist monastery is geared towards spiritual breakthrough (Kensho) and spiritual enlightenment (Satori). But what about psychedelic trips? What are they geared towards?

It is common to set an intention before embarking on a psychedelic journey. This helps orient you towards a conscious goal, usually in the form of a request (Santo daime!) for guidance or healing. But breakthroughs are not always about solutions to personal problems. They can take other forms too.

The integrative psychedelic model I employ proceeds through seven discrete stages, with the potential for a completely different kind of breakthrough at each stage. These are as follows:

  1. MYSTICAL BREAKTHROUGH: Through absorption in meditation, you enter a timeless and spaceless dimension of radical Emptiness or Vacuum-Plenum.

2. SHAMANIC BREAKTHROUGH : Through further absorption, you “enter the dragon” of your “energy body”. You may also experience radical changes in your breathing, “ocean breath”, “bamboo breath”, “bated breath”, “dancing breath” and may vocalise the breath, intoning, babbling, chanting or singing.

3. WARRIOR BREAKTHROUGH : Standing and stretching and adopting strong physical postures, your body flows into powerful sequences of learned and spontaneous warrior-like moves.

4. EMOTIONAL BREAKTHROUGH : Listening to beautiful music, you experience intensely cathartic heart-breaking and heart-melting emotions, usually accompanied by abundant tears.

5. PHILOSOPHICAL BREAKTHROUGH : Reflecting on personal and cosmic questions in a contemplative mood, you experience cascades of inspired insight, wisdom and understanding.

6. SOUL BREAKTHROUGH : Dancing to deep, conscious music (e.g. dub), you embody a state of poised integrity, nobility and inner stature, as if in the presence of “the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the conquering lion of Judah”.

7. FRIENDSHIP BREAKTHROUGH : Sharing and socialising with others, you discover a profound sense of connection, communion, solidarity and friendship.

In any one trip, it is unlikely that you will experience a breakthrough at all seven stages of the journey. One is enough. And there is no reason to be disheartened if no breakthrough is forthcoming. It will come with practice, and whether or not you manage to “break on through to the other side” this time, there is always something of value to take away from the experience.