How I Lost My Fear of Death

I felt jealous of psychonauts who reported talking to God or zipping around the universe.
Finally, I too had an encounter with beauty and bliss.

The difficult snags our attention. Repeated in ruminations, rehashed with confidantes, scrawled in journals, perplexity sticks. Meanwhile, the beatific floats away, returning to the light from whence it came as if it didn’t need processing. I’ve been trying to counter this imbalance, consciously welcoming the good when it arises. Along these lines, I want to share a psychedelic experience that changed my sense of myself and my place in the universe.

One Sunday last spring I decided on a whim to do a solo high-dose psilocybin journey. The circumstances were not auspicious. After a year of relationship detox, I’d just started dating again, and that Saturday night I’d had an encounter that had not gone how I wanted. I was hurt. I was mad. I felt rejected. My disorganized attachment pendulum swung violently between insecure and avoidant. I was so totally done with that guy. What to do, tell him off or just block him? Before I did anything, I turned off my phone and ate a whole bunch of mushrooms.

Sky as seen from my rooftop when I was working on this post.

They came on quickly. Soon I found myself lying on my yoga mat naked, massaging the steel cables that connected my neck to my shoulders. With every achy stroke, kaleidoscopic explosions of lavender and turquoise burst forth behind my eyelids. Other material surfaced. I was studying IFS with Derek Scott at the time, and I heard him ask, “if I don’t love my parts, who will?” In the class, we’d listened to a recording of Buddhist IFS practitioner Loch Kelly declaring, “the body is a part.”

The two insights merged in my mind, turning into if I dont love my body, who will? I thought about myself in my youth, when I’d been skinny but considered myself fat. I thought about how my mother hated her body, and my grandmother before her. I felt myself healing generations of low self esteem and body image issues. If I dont love my body, who will? I continued massaging my feet my calves my thighs. Belly hips breasts and arms. It was sexual but not sexual, orgasmic without an orgasm, an intensity that suddenly seemed unimaginable. Everything was already intense.

A while before I’d listened to a book about past life regressions and thought about how comforting it would be to be able to believe in reincarnation. Getting another go-round would make your own mortality seem so much less scary. But my cognitive parts didn’t buy it, and I was as fearful and death-denying as the next person, avoiding the topic within and without whenever it came up.

But on that shimmery Sunday, I experienced my body as the temporary dwelling place of an immortal soul. While the details remained murky, I knew that the energy animating me existed before and would continue to exist beyond this particular iteration. These newfound convictions bubbled up alongside an overwhelming gratitude, for the life I have and for the body I’m in, a precious vessel worthy of my care. I let these shifts settle as I luxuriated in a long hot shower. Sunlight from the skylight overhead turned into dazzling diamonds that danced across the tile floor.

The mesquite tree in my back yard on the day of my journey.

As I started to come down, I dressed and sat in my yard and looked up at the branches of the mesquite above me: the birds it sheltered, the sky it framed, how the lemon green of its leaves touched the azure of the sky. I felt at peace and at one with eternity.

When I turned my phone back on, there were lots of messages from that guy. In my afterglow I thought, “it’s a small town and ghosting him could be awkward.” So I replied. That led to a pleasant text exchange that led to a pleasant next date, then another. The relationship that wasn’t working started working, because I’d found within myself what I thought I needed from him.

You never know what the mushrooms are going to give you. They say you get what you need, not what you want. Previously, I’d spent many a journey rehashing old biographical material. Other times, I received visits from the dead, exchanging the appreciation and farewells we hadn’t been able to do in real life. All of it was freeing, but far from fun. I felt jealous of psychonauts who reported talking to God or zipping around the universe. Finally, I too had an encounter with beauty and bliss. The drama of this lifetime fell away, revealing eternal love unfurling under the vaulted ceilings of a sacred blue geometry.

I wish I could say my newfound sense of self-love, self-acceptance and immortality cured my inner woundedness once and for all. My little ones still rear their heads sometimes, taking offence easily, stressing about social interactions, fretting about the future. But my ability to tend to them has become more expansive. Self-care arises as right action rather than a “should” that I have to berate myself into doing. Most importantly, I feel more accepting and less frightened when I think about death. As Derek Scott said in the last video he recorded before his transition a few weeks back, “My soul’s journey continues.”

Selfie shot that Sunday.