Psychedelics and Contemplations of Death

There is a close link between death and the use of psychedelics, and many people who take high doses of psychedelics report experiences that are no different from those who have had a near-death experience.

The flight instructions issued by Johns Hopkins even go as far as stating that should a participant say that they feel as if they are dying, that person should be encouraged to give themselves permission to die. This recommendation is given on the strength of the realization that each time someone feels as though they are dying, they emerge from that experience having gone through some kind of rebirth.

Rebirth in the case of psychedelic trips can mean that the person has acquired a new perspective, has become aware of certain things in their life, or they have found a novel way of dealing with the problems that they have been facing.

This could probably explain why death rituals or rites of passage characterize so many ancient and current cultural practices, as those who participate in those rituals discard the old things and embrace a new beginning (such as rituals signifying the passage from childhood to adulthood). A new phase begins after the ceremony.

The near-death experience or the thought that you are dying often brings new clarity about your life. This is exactly what happens when someone survives a nasty accident; everything about their life takes on a whole new meaning.

It is therefore no wonder that some psychedelic guides encourage people to contemplate death as part of their preparation for a psychedelic trip, or even during the trip itself when the thought of death occurs. Rather than resist the thought, have a pen and paper ready and note down the things that go through your mind and heart while you are thinking about death.

To get this session going, you can imagine yourself getting another chance at life, and jot down what comes to your mind regarding the things you would like to do. What dreams or goals would forever be lost once you are gone? Which person haven’t you forgiven for a real or apparent wrong that they committed against you? What would you miss the most if you were to die in the next hour? What have you blocked (love, for example) from coming into your life? What is missing from your life to make it more fulfilling and enjoyable? If you were to die, whose company would you wish for during those final moments? What is still undone in your life?

Psychedelic guides recommend that you spend a few minutes answering each of those questions, and any others that come to your mind during your session. The longer you take thinking about those questions, the less likely you are to give the meaningful answers which immediately come to mind once the question is posed.

This contemplation of death is a very helpful one if you are to get the most from the life-transforming experience of going on a psychedelic “trip.” Such deep mental and emotional stuff could be the reason why psychedelics companies like Compass Pathways encourage people to take psychedelics in a clinical setting where a trained professional can guide them through the entire experience.

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