It is important to note that, the night before this experience, I watched a Doberman die right in front of me. We were at the dog park, and shortly after she arrived, her owner had gone to fill up a water bowl, while the dog walked around. As I was petting her she started shaking, so I backed off. She kept shaking, her legs buckled, and she collapsed...and that was pretty much it. Within a few minutes, the dog's lifeless body was being carried out of the park.
Therefore, my mind was already filled with thoughts of mortality and purpose. I'd recently been "let go" from my day job, so I was also without any semblance of a solid income. While I hadn't been exhibiting normal signs of anxiety- and for the most part, I was happier with life than I'd felt in a long time- I apparently still had some unresolved anxiety that had manifested itself in odd ways. Hives started showing up on my hands, even though I have no real allergies. Even more strange was that I had also developed a growing paranoia about deep water in the weeks leading up to this, odd because I love swimming in open water, and have my whole life.
With all this in mind, I set out to the beach the following day with my girlfriend, and a belly full of Psilocybin mushrooms.
To prepare for the experience, I spent the prior week focusing on my exercise regimen, getting plenty of sleep, eating well and consistently, and doing everything I could to mentally and physically prepare for the journey. While I wasn't intentionally trying to take the trip too seriously, at the same time I hold powerful respect for the mushroom experience, as it's like none other. They're a great tool in opening one's perception, blasting all the clutter in your mind away for you to sort the pieces out one by one...but only if you truly let them. They're more delicate than most other substance of this kind, in that many things can dilute the experience, from what you eat to your own hesitation to let your mind go a little wacky.
And since 80% of any trip is environment, a little planning and preparation can go a long way in maximizing the experience.
We got a good night's sleep the night before, then ate a moderate breakfast with plenty of juice, to pump our bodies full of vitamins and other nutrients. Then, promptly at noon, we each ate about 4 dried grams of the mushrooms, and packed for the beach. A blanket, some towels, plenty of water, and we were set.
20 minutes after eating the mushrooms, I stepped outside to load the car, and noticed the colors a little brighter than normal. This made me giggle and smile...and that smile didn't leave my face for hours. We quickly got on the road, lest things got too hairy before getting to the beach, which was just a 10-minute drive away.
En route, we stopped at a convenient store to get some more water. I got out of the car, and realized I had to pay attention to the sidewalk, because the sunlight and reflections on windows were distracting my focus. I kept my composure well...but then the clerk tried to short-change me. We sorted it out after a confusing exchange, and I hurried back to the car.
By the time we got to the beach around 12:50, my vision was slightly vibrating, and I had to remind myself to breathe. This was the last time I looked at a clock for several hours, as I did not want any restraints getting in the way, holding me back from diving in head-first into this trip.
The idea was to leave all connection to the outside world behind, and just isolate ourselves with the open water. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, perfect to shed all constraints of modern life behind, even if for just a couple hours.
We made our spot by the shore, and jumped into the freshwater sea. The sun sparkled off the waves, exploding like a million diamond shards. The waves were at a strong 3-4 feet, pushing us back and forth in the surf.
We threw water into the air, and watched the sun catch it and dash it into crystals right before our eyes.
I closed my eyes, and let myself slide into the vortex. Colors swirled around, first taking a shape like Moses in South Park's "Jewbile" episode, then expanding until I felt like I was standing in the middle of a Roman amphitheater, with thousands of spectators watching for my next move. I opened my eyes, and as my girlfriend went closer to land, I went deeper into the water.
I found a spot about 50 feet from shore, where the water was up to my chest. I relaxed, held my arms out and stared north to Canada...just breathing. I soon found my rhythm, and fell in tune with the surf. I let all my thoughts spill out before me, all my fears and anxieties, all my joy and peace. I dealt with each singular emotion from start to finish, sorting them out as I watched the waves roll toward me, swaying me back and forth, up and down. All feelings of sadness or inadequacy were immediately replaced by gratitude, thankfulness that I could be there, at that moment in time, enjoying the beautiful, perfect afternoon. I came to realize that all my concepts about what was important in life really didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. At the core of my existence, as long as I could breathe, I could move forward. Life moves on no matter what I do.
The image of the dog dying the night before played back in my mind, only this time, I felt blessed that I at least got to meet her, and contributed even just a shred of love to her life before she passed.
I was in harmony with the water...and the rest of existence.
I was no longer afraid of what might be beneath me in the water, things I can't see, things far out of my control. As long as I could breathe, everything was going to be ok, in the water and in life. At that moment of pure clarity, I left the chapter of anxiety in my life behind.
I then swam freely, with no trepidation anywhere in my body. When I got back to shore, I could tell I had hit my peak, and the effects of the mushrooms were starting to fade away. I was still seeing shapes blend into each other, but it was wearing down...so I checked my clock, and found that I had been in the water a solid 3 hours.
We stayed on the beach for another hour or so, just relaxing in the sun, occasionally strolling back into the sea for some fun in the waves. Every once in a while I'd look east, onto the skyline of Cleveland, and ponder with a smile on this tiny moment of existence, one that I got to enjoy, and presumably shared with scores of others.
The next day, I realized that my hives had vanished.