There are good trips and bad trips. Good trips are when you hit that sweet spot between underwhelm and overwhelm. And when you achieve a generally positive valency. Bad trips are when nothing much happens or too much happens or the experience is frightening, sinister, disturbing, paranoid, unpleasant, nightmarish. I won’t go into the dark rabbit hole of bad trips here, though.
For a good trip, you need a positive mind set and a nice setting (set and setting). And you need the right dosage and preparatory practice to break through to an altered state of consciousness. The first sign of a good trip, then, is simply that you “get high”. Typical sign are visuals (geometrical patterns), somatic energy, heightened sensitivity and changes in your state of consciousness, such as the sudden absence of rumination. You may experience it as an altered state and/or as a higher state of consciousness.
The second sign of a good trip is when you enter a state of flow. This can be flowing with music, either in your mind or through physical movement and dance, flowing movements without music (eg. martial arts), or flowing breath, sounds, icaros, chanting or singing. Whatever you are doing, it feels effortless and natural – you are “in the zone”. Often there is an element of playfulness, although not necessarily. You could call it “serious play”.
The third sign of a good trip is that you have deep insights into your life or into the nature of reality. These can be experienced as “insight cascades”, one insight leading to another, or as a kind of “insight sun” with other insights orbiting around it. An important aspect of this is what Vervaeke calls “relevance realization”, which is the direct apprehension of what is most important and most relevant in any particular context.
We can relate these three signs of a good trip to the six archetypes:
- MYSTIC SHAMAN: Altered states
- WARRIOR MONK: Flow states
- PHILOSOPHER KING: Insight states
Psychedelics can be hard work, but once you get the hang of them, they do reliably reproduce these three essential features, and you can have good fun along the way. Nevertheless, you should always be careful and vigilant. Ere be dragons.