Well, that was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever gone through. What follows is my best attempt to explain and explore what happened, but I know it can never do it justice. It should be noted that I have never taken psilocybin before, this was a first.
It’s late September 2020 as I write this. The leaves are starting to fall from the trees and the temperature has definitely dropped in recent weeks. I live in Calderdale, which is a beautiful part of West Yorkshire, I will be sharing the few pictures I took, so you can see what I saw, kind of.
On the last Saturday of September I got up early, made breakfast for my family (I didn’t eat any) and then walked to the local train station, a few stops later I was in Hebden Bridge, which is a beautiful village known for its character and atmosphere. I decided to walk from the train station at Hebden Bridge to Hardcastle Crags, a beautiful spot that is looked after by the National Trust.
When I arrived at Hardcastle Crags early on this start of autumn Saturday, I found a bench in the woods by a stream that flows into the river in Hebden Bridge (and eventually down through the village I live). I took 25g of wet Psilocybin Magic Truffle over the course of a one hour Waking Up meditation. This is a MASSIVE does, but I am a big and active person, I took a third, waited 20 mins to see how I was, took another third, waited another 20 mins and then finished the final third at the end of the meditation.
Towards the end of the meditation, Sam Harris made a comment that really affected me. He said (paraphrasing here) ‘think about it, the ‘you’ that you think is in your head, isn’t in your head. Can you feel the back of your head? That is a feeling in consciousness and so where are ‘you’ in relation to the back of your head? Are ‘you’ in front of the back of your head?
That’s just another feeling within consciousness. Consciousness as a matter of experience tells you that ‘you’ are not in front of the back of your head, so where are ‘you’?’ This blew my mind, which it has done before (when not on drugs), but whilst entering into this trip, as the psilocybin took effect, I really came to the realisation that consciousness is all I really ‘am’, not ‘Sam’, but consciousness as a matter of experience because consciousness is the prior state to all experience.
I didn’t see anything ‘magical’ on my trip, but everything changed forever. When the meditation had finished, I got up and started to walk down a path following the stream back towards Hebden Bridge. It must have been about 9 am at this stage. I remember realising that I was walking so slowly, but that I was so relaxed. I have a bad back, which plagues me most of the time. As I was walking, I became aware that I am always rushing towards my destination, I never stop and enjoy this moment right now. I remember my right leg moved differently to how it does the rest of the time as if relaxing and slowly moving had enabled me to walk fully again, pain-free.
My hands and lower arms were freezing, but I was sweating under my fleece and coat. I hugged myself as I walked, and this action brought me an incredible sense of comfort. Eventually, I walked up onto a bridge and then crossed over the stream and down the other side. It was here that I really became aware of what I can only describe as ‘complete emotions’ in quick succession, all of which were related to what I witnessed or focused on within my mind. Peace, fear, bliss, awe, oneness, clarity, disorder, being, terror, oneness. Yes, I am aware that I have written ‘oneness’ twice, but in this haze where the light shone through in variable rays and I slowly trudged down this country path next to a beautiful stream, I realised that ‘I’ am part of all of ‘this’. As I looked out at the world, I realised that ‘Sam’ isn’t here, rather whatever I am as ‘consciousness as a matter of experience’ is here and part of this moment, and that is all there is and has ever been. A moment, and then another. We make it into stories, demanding purpose and reason, but that isn’t what we have in each moment.
I realised that I was following the stream, and eventually it would lead to the river and that this river would take me home. I wasn’t ‘tripping’, I was ‘journeying’, and the river would take me home. There was SO much joy in that, this beautiful stream was going to take me home as I journey moment by moment.
I noticed a Grey Heron in the fields across the other side of the stream to the left. By this point, I was on the right-hand side and saw a sign pointing up saying ‘Calderdale Way’, which is a well-known and beautiful walking route here where I live. I began to follow it, because beauty was what I knew I wanted. As I began to walk up, it was clear to me that the cobbled track leading up from the stream was once a packhorse (or donkey/mule) trail, probably used to deliver items from Hebden Bridge to the mills that once stood at Hardcastle Crags in the Victorian times. But what struck me as incredible was each section of the road had been broken up and pushed aside by roots and changes to the land as the hills have moved over the last few hundred years. It was like I was walking through a giant’s causeway, weaving between and over sections of the ancient road.
As I followed this up, it narrowed down and wound along the side of a couple of fields. I reached out and touched the top of the wall to my left, towards the top of this section of path/ancient road and laughed. The moss covering the cold dry-stone wall felt so real, almost like I remember my dog’s fur feeling when he was alive many years ago. I stood there for what must have been 10 minutes just relishing the feeling of this green moss on top of the dry-stone wall. I was still feeling very cold and needed to find a patch of sun to stop in for a little while and warm up. Towards the end of this wall, I found a great spot that overlooked the valley into Hardcastle Crags (due to how high up I now was) and decided to stop here for a while.
This was the perfect spot to stop and be, so for the next hour I watched the world pass by as the sun slowly moved overhead. I saw cars coming and going, I heard people walking past me, but I didn’t turn around to answer, not because I didn’t want to, but because that wasn’t important. Right now, it was important, and I wanted to fully enjoy all of it.
This time came to an end, and it felt right to move on.
Now I was still freezing cold, experiencing everything right now to the tenth degree and reminding myself to enjoy the now, yet I also realised at this moment I saw how easy it is for someone to get into a dark place whilst high. You repeat yourself and the cycle continues unless you move and allow yourself to focus on something else. It was like the two doors were in front of me, a door to despair and a door to delight. I knew where I was going, but I felt sorry for all of those taking these substances with no preparation and forewarning. Who aren’t able to control their settings and don’t have a slightly trained mind, not that I am an expert on that or anything, far from it.
I began to make my way back down the way I had come towards the stream again, I had noticed a sign saying, ‘riverside walk’ and wanted to follow that, allowing the river to take me home.
It was here that I saw the Grey Heron again, I saw it fly past me along the stream to my left, it was SO close. It landed on some rocks in the water, looked around and then flew further down the stream out of view. I was absolutely amazed by this bird. My Grandfather, who passed away a few years ago, was a fan of bird watching, and I have some very precious memories of spending time with him when I was very young at RSPB bird sanctuaries. He taught me what a Grey Heron is all those years ago, and whenever I see one, I think of him. I was filled with joy and continued my slow pain-free walk down this stream, towards the river.
The path winds across the stream a couple more times, leading up onto the road at one point, I meandered down it, following the signs as I went. I remember a few people walking past me at this point, as it must have been about mid-day. I could not stop myself smiling and laughing. Not because I was worried or embarrassed, but because I was SO full of joy. I found an acorn on another dry-stone wall, just sat there like someone had left it for me to marvel at. I found myself staring at it for about 5 minutes. My focus would zoom straight onto a specific item and then broaden out to take everything it possibly could in, it was the strangest feeling. At times it felt like I could see something miles away, whilst also perfectly seeing that in the foreground.
The final part of my journey was the river itself, I was still walking very slowly, and this was the most giggling section of the walk. As I made my way down the river, I saw other walkers and runners, I saw people fly fishing in the river, squirrels and cats running, bees and flies buzzing. Leaves were slowly falling as I walked, and it gave me a Lord of the Ring’s feeling, when the fellowship visited the Elves in the woods and the leaves slowly fell around them, just like that, it was incredible.
When I passed a wall, tree or lamppost I would stretch my hand out and find the items so real to the touch, cold and yet alive, it was very strange to me, but so beautiful. Just before I finally got back into Hebden Bridge, I came across some areas that really captured my heart. I tried my best to capture the feelings when I came upon them by trying to capture them with my phone.
As I walked, I held onto the acorn and felt it between my figures, carrying my coat in my other hand and with my backpack on my back. If I tried to pull my arms up, they became extremely heavy very quickly. Almost like my body did not want to work on anything but ‘being’ right now. I continued down this isolated path and slowly began to land upon the paved streets that led me to the train station. Just before I got there a couple were mowing a cricket pitch, the smell of freshly mown grass when high is a dream.
Now, trying to do maths apparently wasn’t something I was able to do. I could tell what time it was, and I could tell what time I needed to be home by, but how many hours I had in-between wasn’t something I could work out. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. I felt peace at this, time doesn’t matter, it’s the journey that I wanted to embrace and enjoy. I could see how people could get very worked up at this.
I caught the train and got off in the village where I live. It was here that I ate some food, it was incredible. I had nuts, oranges, apples and water – the flavours of the food blew my senses of taste, it was like I was tasting for the first time, my mouth exploded with them.
From here I found the canal and slowly wound my way to my house, took a shower and grabbed my notebook to capture as many of these moments as I possibly could. My journey, which has changed everything. I experienced consciousness in a way I never have before. Consciousness that is so broad it engulfs everything. I experienced pure terror and complete love. I had ‘been’, fully been, and a week later, as I write this, I feel like my mind is at rest, actual rest.
I ended up walking 21,784 steps on this day, which is a lot. But I didn’t feel tired, rather alive and at rest.
The following days I felt very vulnerable and took a lot of time to rest and be with my thoughts. Witnessing how quickly the business of life demands my attention. Other people’s priorities dictate my actions, commitments, and future.
I definitely want to do this again, but unlike smoking, drinking or other drugs I have done before, there is something extremely sacred and special in what took place here, and I want to allow the effects of this journey to stay with me for a long while. I will never forget this journey, but I also want to experience my consciousness whilst on this substance again, at other times in the year.
For once in my life, I had fully enjoyed the autumn sun lost amongst ancient trees.
As always, your support enables When Belief Dies to grow, so please consider hitting ‘support’ at the top of this page. You will also find links to the YouTube Channel, Podcast and social accounts up there. You can subscribe via email at the bottom of this post. This blog is roughly twelve to twenty-four months behind where I currently am in my journey out of religion. It’s important to remember that when reading and commenting. –Sam