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  • Writer's pictureScott Carnahan

Desert Solitaire with the Magic Mushroom.

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Inhigh school, I had three opportunities to try Magic Mushrooms. The first was in a McDonald’s parking lot, the second a basement, and the third on a chairlift.

I passed every time, that writhing in my gut telling me no, not yet. Every opportunity seemed destined for failure. Nevertheless, the seeds of awe were planted and I became very interested in the variety of psychedelics, I had every intention of trying them one day.

My time came in February of 2015. At twenty-five, I was stuck in a depressing crisis of existence. I was recently let go of a steady job and had been getting some sparse freelance work. During the interludes of no work, I found myself wasting the day away with video games and cheap booze, straining my relationship with my girlfriend, my only roommate.

Outside of a bar one night I bumped into a friend from college. I hadn’t seen him in years and we quickly got to catching up. After college he took some time off and did a lot of LSD, I was immediately interested. He went on to explain the perspective it gave him and how pivotal an experience like that was for him in a period of change. “Drugs are tools” he told me, “Different keys to unlock the brain.”

When he said he would be getting some mushrooms, a camp trip to the desert was immediately planned.

The crisis I had been in the grips of felt like it reached its bottom and running into my friend was the beginning of something new. The chance to try a psychedelic arose again and for the first time I didn’t feel uncomfortable or wrong. At that point it didn’t seem like there was anything else I could do, I needed to adjust my perspective.

With my schedule clear, I decided that I would spend two weeks in the desert mostly alone, spending my time hiking, reading, and listening to spiritual speakers. I had three days before my friends would arrive with the sacred mushrooms, to quell the questioning voice in my head I took the time to get into a good mindset.

I recently read, The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, Siddartha by Herman Hesse, and Valis by Phillip K. Dick. With the combination of those books swirling around my head I was itching to expand my mind.

Those days that I spent alone grounded me in the desert. The Joshua Trees, stars, and rock formations felt like home. Through meditation and a study of the teachings of Alan Watts I got myself ready, mind open to anything.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” — Alan Watts

On my fourth day I woke up to two new tents at my campsite, my friends had come in the night.

With an afternoon hike planned we ate a hearty breakfast, packed our bags and let a tea brew. It was Yerba mate and diced up Psilocybe Cubenisis, also known as the ‘Golden Teacher’ mushroom.

Only two of us were going to drink the tea, playing it safe with a chaperone. After half an hour my stomach began to twist and turn, a sign that the mushrooms were taking effect. It was like going up that first hill of a roller coaster and soon we were giggling, dodging cacti, and clambering all over the rocks. On a psychedelic ride of emotions, insights, and astonishment.

Everything became amplified, beyond the fun and overwhelming beauty there was this innate sense of understanding which pervaded every moment. I noticed patterns in the environment that I hadn’t before. All of the colors were saturated, the sky sparkling with a technicolor sheen. I had a new connection with nature and it gave me a ubiquitous peace. It was in that space that I was first introduced to a part of myself that had been hiding.

The reasons for my depression and trepidation appeared so clear and so vivid that I had to step away from my friends and cry happy tears. The mushrooms were showing me what I needed to fix, what sent me down and kept me down, these realizations were freeing and all I could do was accept each thought and flow with my experience. Not just this experience, but the experience that is the entirety of my life.

The gratitude that enveloped my heart was immeasurable.

My worldview was changing with every passing second. As I walked back to meet my friends an overpowering feeling rushed over me. It was a call to adventure and every time I looked to the east it was stronger. I knew that there was much more for me to unlock, things for me to sit and write down but the call of my friends sent me back to them.

Perched high on a rock, drinking beer and watching the afternoon fade into evening we enjoyed an amazing Mojave sunset, enhanced into the most beautiful array of colors I have ever seen. The rest of the night was spent around a campfire, laughing, rehashing, and telling stories until we made our way to our tents under the open desert night sky.

Waking up the next day felt like being born into a new world, the sun shined brighter and the birds chirped louder. Those powerful thoughts and feelings I had were ingrained in me, as was my new way of looking at things. It was like the entire lens that I looked through had changed.

My friends left after breakfast and since I had nine more days alone in the desert they left the mushrooms with me.

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I had six days until my girlfriend was to meet me and I was determined to attain a greater understanding of my life before her arrival.

Years earlier I purchased a journal and still had yet to write in it, the mushrooms opened the floodgates in my mind and I spent the rest of the day writing. For the first time in my life, I was writing to write and it wasn’t a chore in any way. It was the only way to make sense of all the information I received from that first experience. But the question remained, why was I feeling such a pull to the east. Why was there a hankering for adventure in my gut?

The rest of the week, I spent the mornings filling my journal and the days hiking while listening to the audio book of Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. In the moments I wasn’t hiking, I was writing.

Over the course of the next week I tripped alone three times, including on the night of my twenty-sixth birthday which felt like a proper rite of passage into my late twenties. I saw a change occurring inside myself as I was finding a new place of inspiration, my respect and gratitude for life and not just my life but all life on earth.

Each day that passed and each epiphany I had on paper brought me closer to the realization that I needed to make a huge change in my life. That pulling east was a sign for me to uproot, to push off from the life that was making me unhappy.

My girlfriend arrived late at night, I’ll never forget the joy of her headlights descending on my campsite. She was fresh from the funeral of her bosses wife. Two years spent just a cubicle away, hearing so much about the battle with cancer she felt like she had to be in attendance. Afterward her cubicle began to feel more like a death sentence. Like myself, she was primed for a life-altering experience.

The next day I made us some magic tea. Over the course of the day we hiked, giggled, and discussed our lives in a way that we never had before. For the first time, we could be honest about what we wanted. Just as the mushrooms helped me, they helped her to tear down the walls of doubt in her mind. As I described my week and all the newfound wisdom that only solitude, psychedelics, and writing can bring the wheels turned in her mind like they had in mine.

She too was feeling an imminent change, a need to uproot, and an urgency to do so. Watching the sun slip behind the mountains and bring about another vivid rainbow of color we knew that there would be no going back to our previous perceptions, things would be forever different.

Upon returning home we developed a plan to quit our jobs, move into a campervan, and travel the country. Before the magic week in the desert, neither of us would have ever considered something so brash, but after allowing ourselves to let go it felt like the only thing left to do.

That is the key component in the psychedelic experience, the art of letting go. It is because you have to, the drug won’t allow for stubborn thought.

That week sent us on a journey that allowed us to fully find ourselves, it started my writing which I have been focused on ever since. Magic mushrooms set both of us free from a mindset that was overdue in shedding.

Someone once told me that mushrooms come into your life when you need them most. I fully believe in that, because they brought me out of a very dark time in my life. I was given the introspection I needed to adapt into who I truly needed to be, free of expectation and doubt.

That week was the most pivotal time of my life and it sent me on whole new trajectory of positivity and discipline in my passion for writing.

I believe that everyone should take the opportunity to open their mind, it has the power to change lives.

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