Having A Psychedelic Trip Without Drugs
Seeking a sober trip? Altered States of Consciousness aren’t just exclusive to psychedelics. There are actually several ways you can have a psychedelic experience without the use of psychedelic substances like psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca, and DMT. We’re covering the 6 ways you can have a psychedelic experience without consuming anything.
Producing life-altering mystical experiences, Holotropic Breathwork (HB) is an alternative practice for those seeking to gain therapeutic benefits through altered states of consciousness. Holotropic Breathwork was developed in the 1970s by Stanislav “Stan” Grof, M.D., a psychiatrist, and Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) researcher who helped pioneer the field of psychedelics and consciousness with his wife, Christina Grof. Stan Grof has written over 25 books on all sides of the spectrum of non-ordinary states and the human psyche. With well-renowned books like “The Way of The Psychonaut” and “Holotropic Breathwork”, Grof holds a wealth of wisdom that he has given those who are curious a chance to explore it for themselves. Furthermore, it’s no surprise with Grof being a co-founder of Transpersonal Psychology, a sub-field in psychology that combines the metaphysical aspects of the human experience with modern psychology, that his innovation of Holotropic Breathwork does just that.
From the Greek words “holos” meaning whole and “trepein” representing movement in a specific direction, Holotropic precisely means to move towards wholeness. In this case, using one’s breath. As a form of self-healing and introspection, the practice includes managing and increasing one’s breath to enhance the mental, physical, and emotional states inducing an altered state of consciousness. Most often held by HB facilitators certified by the Grof Foundation, an HB group workshop typically lasts from 2-3 hours. Although clinical trials on the benefits of Holotropic Breathwork is limited, based on some participants' reviews, HB can result in profound experiences that increase self-awareness, relaxation, reduce stress, and even prompt enlightenment.
Michael Pollan, explains this in his best-selling book, "How to Change Your Mind". During an HB workshop, he began seeing visuals of himself on a horse, galloping through a forest, and “absorbing the animal's power”, before returning back to his ordinary state to find his heartbeat was at a rapid rate. Interestingly enough, research has displayed that this practice can have a big impact on mental health through decreasing death anxiety, increasing self-esteem, and improving behavioral issues such as neuroticism, hostility, and attachment. HB has also been used to help those suffering from severe traumas, addiction, chronic pain, and stress.
Sensory Deprivation Tank
Tripping in isolation seems a lot less intimidating with this non-psychedelic therapy. Commonly known as a “float tank” or “isolation tank”, a sensory deprivation tank is a soundproof container filled with about a foot of saltwater. The tank was originally designed in 1954 by John C. Lilly, M.D., a scientific visionary who studied psychopharmacology, and has made significant contributions to understanding psychedelics, psychology, and human consciousness. Lily’s intent of this creation, was to further investigate human consciousness through deactivating external stimulation. Lilly also incorporated the use of high dose psychedelic experiences by using Ketamine and other hallucinogenic drugs inside of the isolation tank. His curiosities piqued the interest in other researchers, and commercial float tanks were introduced in the 1970s. Now, it is considerably easy to find spas and float tank centers offering Lily’s original concept worldwide.
Recent studies have demonstrated that float therapy shows promise for those suffering from mental illness. However, for many, navigating the experience can be difficult. Some first-time users have experienced nausea and even panic attacks. Although, similar to what some may consider a non-psychedelic "bad trip", float therapy can result in many health benefits once passed some of the initial side effects. Studies have shown a decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhanced flexibility, and an increase in sleep quality and stress reduction. They have also shown a notable relation between mindfulness and altered states of consciousness during float tank experiences. Many users have reported having a mystical experience similar to taking psychedelic drugs, detailing changes in perception such as hallucinations and increased creativity. Others have reported transcendental experiences, spiritual insights, mind euphoria, and increased overall well-being. There have also been studies showing an improvement in recovery for athletes in relieving aches and pains.
Kundalini Activation Process
Skip the MDMA and enter bliss-like states with the Kundalini Activation Process. Similar to Reiki, this process is a transmission of energy. Founded by Venant Wong, who discovered he could activate a person’s Kundalini through touch by working with the energy systems and meridian points. Certified facilitators transmit non-dual awareness or “life force energy” that enters through the crown chakra and flows down toward the root chakra.
Kundalini is an energy believed to be located at the base of the spine. Once activated, it is said to produce a profound psychedelic-like effect. Many have described feeling a tingling sensation or the “energy” throughout their body, having visions, flashbacks, or going on astral journeys, experiencing an emotional release such as crying, screaming, laughing, and kinesthetic movements such as yoga and mudras have been reported. Frequent participants have also mentioned entering bliss states and feelings of euphoria during the 2-hour session. Little clinical research on this process has been conducted but participants have expressed an impact on their overall wellbeing with increased awareness, mental clarity, feelings wholeness or oneness, decrease in anxiety and/or depression, and relief in body aches and pains.
Hypnosis has proven to be controversial when in consideration as a distinct form of an altered state of consciousness. However, participants of hypnosis have expressed entering a “trance state” when being hypnotized. With approaches like Quantum Healing Hypnosis Technique (QHHT) or past life regression, clients have described seeing visions and “revisiting” past lives. Some of these users also report a form of familiarity of the visualizations similar to flashbacks along with an increased sense of self proceeding the session. Hypnosis has been widely recognized for its success in helping those quit addictions like alcohol, cigarettes, and even addressing unhealthy cravings. Studies show that hypnosis has the ability to rewire specific patterns and conditions by altering the neurophysical network. Whether or not hypnosis is categorized as a definitive altered state of consciousness, its mysteriously inducing trance states continues to be recognized as a psychedelic-like enigma.
Although not commonly thought of as an altered state, eye-gazing has shown to increase hallucinations and dissociation similar to a psychedelics in as little as 10 minutes of gazing into someone eyes. In 2015, psychologist Giovanni Caputo from the University of Urbino, conducted a clinical trial using 20 volunteers who were asked to gaze into each other’s eyes and the results were astounding.
The control group reported dissociative symptoms, face dysmorphia, distorted colors, loss of memory, and changes in sound perception. Comparably, Caputo had conducted a similar study in 2014, with participants gazing into their own eyes in a mirror for 7 minutes and had produced alike results. Anecdotal reports of solo eye-gazing have shown to possess the same details of visions, face dysmorphia, color distortions, and sound distortions. The benefits of eye-gazing are still dependent on more research, but participants have explained a higher sense of self, mental clarity, and increased self-esteem.
Unlike your typical psychedelic drug trip, designed to completely eliminate sound and electromagnetic waves, an anechoic chamber allows you to experience complete sound deprivation. To keep outside noise out, and inside noise completely absorbed, the floor and ceiling are completely covered by sound-absorbent fiberglass wedge. The chamber is so silent that it registers a negative level of decibels, which in other words is below the capacity of human hearing.
Experiencers have expressed that it’s so quiet that they can hear their body function much louder than usual. Some visitors report hearing their heartbeat, digestive system, and even their blood flowing within their body. Out of body experiences have also been detailed, along with mild hallucinations after sitting in the chamber after just a few minutes.
A Sober Option
For those who just aren't ready for psychedelic medicine, or for those who are simply looking to gain an understanding of what it's like, sober psychedelic experiences do exist. And similar to psilocybin, ketamine, and other psychedelics, many show promising therapeutic benefits like increasing overall-wellbeing and pain management. So, until you're ready for a hallucinogens, try experiencing the ways of a psychedelic trip without the drug use.
Caputo, Giovanni B. “Dissociation and Hallucinations in Dyads Engaged through Interpersonal Gazing.” Psychiatry Research, Elsevier, 11 June 2015, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165178115003212.
Eveleth, Rose. “Earth's Quietest Place Will Drive You Crazy in 45 Minutes.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 17 Dec. 2013, www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/earths-quietest-place-will-drive-you-crazy-in-45-minutes-180948160/.
“Holotropic Breathwork.” Grof Transpersonal Training, www.holotropic.com/.
IE;, Wickramasekera. “Mysteries of Hypnosis and the Self Are Revealed by the Psychology and Neuroscience of Empathy.”
The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25928682/.