Adapted from Chapter 2 of The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide by Jim Fadiman
One of the biggest unknowns for new users of psychedelics is how the voyage will unfold.
Most people who desire to take LSD understand the myriad of benefits associated with its use, but few individuals are familiar with the hour-by-hour progression of an LSD session.
What happens once you stick the little piece of paper on your tongue?
While the precise details of each trip vary by individual, the general stages remain the same.
Stage 1 and 2: Ingesting the Psychedelic and the Initial Onset
Stage 1 and 2 take about one hour. Once you receive and consume the psychedelic, take the remaining time to talk with your guide.
Are there any additional thoughts you have related to the experience? Ask about them. Do you feel anxious at all?
Express this anxiety to your guide. It is best to express all concerns before the psychedelic begins to affect you.
Once you begin to feel the first effects, you may want to lay down. If you have chosen an indoor setting for the day, this will be easy. If you've chosen an outdoor setting for your trip, it is wise to consume the psychedelic either at the site of your trip or in proximity.
During the initial build-up, find a state of relaxation. Observe your breath as a sort of meditative exercise. If you've chosen a music selection for the day, begin to play it.
Your awareness of reality will soon waver. You will begin to lose control. A slight state of inebriation will start to affect you.
Release control to the LSD by staying with your breath. Take deep, meditative breaths, observing all five senses.
As part of the initial build up, your mind will also be bombarded with new thoughts. Try not to be overwhelmed. Instead, enjoy the rush of images and impressions. Observe them as a curious spectator. Do not attempt to control them.
Stage 3: Opening and Letting Go
After the initial build up comes the 'full-on' stage. It is also called the "Opening and Letting Go" stage.
During this phase, your mind is consumed with the effects of LSD. Stage three typically lasts 3-4 hours and immerses the user in an unfamiliar world.
You must completely let go during stage three. Let go of any thoughts, feelings, and concerns you don't need for the journey. Let go of any expectations about the session. Let go of any personal concerns or personal issues. Let go of each experience, feeling, or visual event as it occurs.
When you let go of control, you enable yourself to experience this new dimension of reality. Your awareness of this alternate reality deepens, and you fully enter the heart of the psychedelic trip.
In letting go, you may experience unusual, somewhat concerning, feelings. These feelings may be physical or emotional. In past trips, friends have described these feelings as 'weird' and 'unusual'. One friend thought she turned into an alligator. If your thoughts begin to freak you out, talk to your sitter for support. Ask for help if you need to.
Stage 4: Plateau
In stage four, you have acclimatized to your new state of mind. Tripping on LSD now feels normal instead of alien. When you have entered into this additional stage of freedom, feel free to sit up and check in with the guide. During this phase, you will feel as if you can function within the normal realms of society again. Reality will seem less inaccessible, but you will still feel heavily inebriated.
Even though the climax of your trip has passed, you will continue to experience new insights about life.
Take this opportunity to do as you please. If you desire to lay still and listen to music, then do so. If you want to get up and walk around, feel free.
The Plateau stage lasts from 2-3 hours.
Stage 5: Gentle Glide
As the defining characteristic of stage four is acclimatization, the defining characteristic of stage five is a slow reacquaintance with reality. Your state of inebriation begins to dissipate, and your ability for rational thought reappears.
Stage five is an excellent time to do personal work. You will be able to integrate much of your learned experience into everyday life. Take a journal and write down any insights from your trip.
Stage five is also a great time go outside and enjoy nature. One of the universal feelings brought on by psychedelics is a oneness, or unity, with nature. Experience this oneness yourself with trees, plants, animals, bodies of water, or the Earth itself.
Stage 6: End of the Formal Session
As your state of inebriation continues to wind down, you will still experience new thoughts and patterns from your LSD trip. Observe these thoughts. Write them down if you feel inclined.
The end of an LSD often brings on a feeling of immense gratitude and appreciation for the relationships in your life. You will feel a surge of love and acceptance of those close to you. If you wish to call these people, limit your calls to those who have experience with psychedelics.
The end of a formal session is also an excellent time to integrate what you have experienced. Pull out a journal, create certain categories of life (social, work, psychological, habits, etc.) and write down any thoughts related to them.
When I first experimented with LSD in my early 20s, I was on a self-improvement kick. For this reason, many of my insights related to how I could improve as an individual.
You now have a general idea of the stages involved in an LSD session.
Keep in mind, these are very general overviews of the different phases. Within each stage, the personal experience will differ based on the individual.