Yoga Journal

Into the Mystic

When a friend invited Maya Griffin* to a “journey weekend”—two or three days spent taking psychedelics in hopes of experiencing profound insights or a spiritual awakening—she found herself considering it. “Drugs were never on my radar,” says Griffin, 39, of New York City. “At an early age, I got warnings from my parents that drugs may have played a role in bringing on a family member’s mental illness. Beyond trying pot a couple times in college, I didn’t touch them.” But then Griffin met Julia Miller* in a yoga class, and after about a year of friendship, Miller began sharing tales from her annual psychedelic weekends. She’d travel with friends to rental houses in various parts of the United States where a “medicine man” from California would join them and administer mushrooms, LSD, and other psychedelics. Miller would tell Griffin about experiences on these “medicines” that had helped her feel connected to the divine. She’d talk about being in meditative-like bliss states and feeling pure love.

This time, Miller was hosting a three-day journey weekend with several psychedelics—such as DMT (dimethyltryptamine, a compound found in plants that’s extracted and then smoked to produce a powerful experience that’s over in minutes), LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide, or “acid,” which is chemically synthesized from a fungus), and Ayahuasca (a brew that blends whole plants containing DMT with those that have enzyme inhibitors that prolong the DMT experience). Miller described it as a “choose your own adventure” weekend, where Griffin could opt in or out of various drugs as she pleased. Griffin eventually decided to go for it. Miller recommended she first do a “mini journey”—just one day and one drug—to get a sense of what it would be like and to see if a longer trip was really something she wanted to do. So, a couple of months before the official journey, Griffin took a mini journey with magic mushrooms.

“It felt really intentional. We honored the spirits of the four directions beforehand, a tradition among indigenous cultures, and asked the ancestors to keep us safe,” she says. “I spent a lot of time feeling heavy, lying on the couch at first. Then, everything around me looked more vibrant and colorful. I was laughing hysterically with a friend. Time was warped. At the end, I got what my friends would call a ‘download,’ or the kind of insight you might get during meditation. It felt spiritual in a way. I wasn’t in a relationship at the time and I found myself having this sense that I needed to carve out space for a partner in my life. It was sweet and lovely.”

Griffin, who’s practiced yoga for more than 20 years and who says she wanted to try psychedelics in order to “pull back the ‘veil of perception,’” is among a new class of yoga practitioners who are giving drugs a try for spiritual reasons. They’re embarking on journey weekends, doing psychedelics in meditation circles, and taking the substances during art and music festivals to feel connected to a larger community and purpose. But a renewed interest in these explorations, and the mystical experiences they produce, isn’t confined to recreational settings. Psychedelics, primarily psilocybin, a psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, are being studied by scientists, psychiatrists, and psychologists again after a decades-long hiatus following the experimental 1960s—a time when horror stories of recreational use gone wrong contributed to bans on the drugs and

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