My life forever changed as the Earth was peacefully drifting through space, as always, not particularly caring about the humans it carries or their astral travels.
It was a warm July afternoon, without a cloud in the sky. The beautiful Hungarian meadow I had been calling my home for a week was the set of a psychonautical reunion known as Samsara Festival. This peaceful gathering is unique in the world, in that it prioritizes psybient (psychedelic ambient) music over heavier genres such as psytrance, which most of the biggest European summer electronic festivals feature as their main acts.
The purpose of this festival is not to get wasted and dance fiercely for dozens of hours on end. It is to relax, connect with nature, surrender your soul to the guidance of master DJs, eat healthily, and listen to incredible talks on topics such as spirituality and entheogenic exploration from astoundingly knowledgeable minds such as those of Ede Frecska, Susana Bustos, and Julian Palmer.
This setting was perfect. I felt DMT calling to me like I had felt Ayahuasca reaching out months before. I was curious to learn what this crazy crystal everyone was talking about had in store.
I was walking with a friend, and she remembered she had forgotten her jacket in her tent. As I was waiting for her to pick it up, the strangest being popped out in front of me. It was a young, skinny guy with frizzy black hair and a huge mandala tattoo over his chest. His eyes gazed right through mine and straight into my soul; he uttered with both childlike glee and deathly seriousness: “I want to share with you the most beautiful thing I know of.”
Of course I accepted the strange man’s offer and he proceeded to give me a time and place to meet.
We were a group of eight, including our frizzy shaman friend. He had apparently been traveling the world, healing people with massive Tibetan singing bowls and fiercely potent psychedelics. His evident experience and confidence had inspired unconditional trust in me, to the extent that putting my life into his hands felt like a comfortable idea. Some of the others seemed to know him from before, and they were still alive, so that was a good sign.
Our destined guide took out his equipment, which included singing bowls, essential oil, white sage, precise digital scales, a bag of some resin-looking stuff, changa, and a ceremonial pipe. He proceeded to share a few words about the experience that awaited and how we should approach it. He said to think deeply of an intention that our souls could bring with them to the other world and to try to remember it when we’re there.
He took to carefully measuring out portions of the resin-like substance and disclosed to us that it was an MAOI extract. At the time, I had no idea what that meant, but he seemed certain of how the whole thing should go, so I trusted his guidance. He gave us each a little ball of it to swallow and moved on to sound healing.
He seemed adept at this – he would align the Tibetan singing bowls with our chakras and, by gently tracing the wooden mallet around their edges, echo waves of sacred sound throughout our bodies. The atmosphere grew more solemn with each of us being treated to this peaceful vibrational joy and immersed into thought about our intentions.
I was the first to go and the anxiety was real. I had decided to let go of my nervousness and, following the shaman’s directions, take in a full lung’s worth of the harsh smoke. I did not cough (maybe due to my lungs’ resistance I had built up after years of smoking various substances) and it did not bother me as much as I had thought it would, but, in retrospect, after having smelled it afterwards, I was glad I went first because the pungeant scent DMT emanates would surely have put me off.
Holding the smoke in, I started to count down the seconds, thinking naïvely that there was no way it would work as fast as I had heard it would.
The nature around me rapidly began to disappear, as if its resolution decreased from 4k down to a pixelated mess. The trees became blobs, the shaman’s body became a stick, his curly dark hair now resembling the phosphorous head of a match. He told me to close my eyes and lie down, and so I did. It felt like it might be the last time I’d be doing that.
As if to counter the nothingness the outside world had become, everything else suddenly appeared from within the closed-eyed darkness. The background became filled with solemn noise and the echo of deep cyclical breathing, as if to remind me to keep my own rhythm up.
I could not believe what world unfurled itself in front of my soul, but it quickly became apparent that beliefs had no place there. I was in shock, and this sentiment lingered on throughout.
This was a universe with different rules. The myriad colors and shapes were overwhelming. They would enter and exit existence freely and twirl and twist into themselves as if there were even more behind them that were unperceivable. It was the first time I had witnessed dimensions outside of my understanding.
I found myself in some sort of temple or palace, with hallways extending into infinity in every direction. The walls were made of intricate textures resembling a mix of what I would later recognize as colorful Islamic geometric patterns and Siam temple ornaments.
And there they were indeed. The entities everyone was talking about. My very own guardians – two of them. Their presence commanded such respect from my soul that I felt like they were gods. They were incredible – humanlike, in the sense that they had two arms and two legs and a body and head each, but their faces and movements were unlike anything from the world I had known. They were dancing and smiling wide and seemed like they didn’t have a single worry to bring them down. And why would they when they were inhabiting a world of light and colors? What would there be to worry about there?
Nothing. And that was the first lesson I got from them. There is nothing to worry about. Not there, not anywhere. Everything that is something will at some point be nothing, and over there the difference between now and some point doesn’t really hold up like it does here, so everything might as well already be nothing.
They seemed positively surprised to see me there, and they made it very clear that they were, in fact, seeing me. Their heads would just appear out of nowhere and completely occupy my field of perception, teleporting from what seemed like a distance between them and me, until I realized that distance doesn’t actually exist there. They would investigate me carefully with their huge eyes and their wide smiles would make me feel welcome, albeit a little frightened.
They would extend their arms toward me at a similar speed, and multiply them a thousandfold until all I could perceive would be a myriad of hands, pulling me in. At those moments I would feel a rush of fear, but would very quickly let it go, as their second lesson dawned on me:
I have no choice. I came to their world and fear doesn’t belong there. I need to surrender.
So I did. From then onward, all I was left with were curiosity and awe. I looked around at their incredible eternal chambers and enjoyed the show they put on for me. At some point I began to wonder where those huge, intricately ornamented doors they were guarding led to. It felt like there couldn’t be anything else behind them but the realm of death.
My father had passed away several months prior to that moment, and it seemed right to bring the inquiry of his soul’s well-being into the journey. My guardians did not show me where or how he was, but they transmitted to me the awareness that he had passed through those doors. At that moment, I understood my father’s puzzling facial expression as I had seen it after his death. The mix of fear, astonishment, and insecurity was so uncharacteristic that at first I couldn’t even recognize him. But I understood then that transitioning through that world was what had made him gasp in such a way. I was finally able to let him go.
After deep realizations such as that one, my guardians would congratulate me. They were tricksters – they would put out a hand for me to shake, but I would look down and see no hand of my own with which I could take theirs. They would laugh at this.
And then I would remember where my hand was… Somewhere on Earth, lying still beside my equally motionless body. And I understood… It’s not really my body. It’s just a borrowed vessel for my soul to ride out in this life cycle, until it expires. Keeping healthy then seemed as simple as maintaining a car – if I wanted my soul not to suffer too much, I could just take good care of the body I got so that it would be easier for my spirit to move around.
And other things about me? Well, that was also simple: there were no other things. I forgot all about my life, my problems, the people I knew. I forgot language and I forgot my name. For that journey, I was pristine light. And my guardians showed me that that light is actually my true nature – and everyone else’s. They made it clear that theirs is the state of existence where nothing else matters and that it is what we return to. All the struggles, investments, stresses, joys, loves, desperations… All the individual experiences we go through in life cease to be granular and become one thing, that we just let go of when it’s time.
Everything seemed simple over there.
But what about the universe and human life and all those deep, complicated things? You guessed it: also simple. The reality I came from to visit them felt like just a tiny bubble, one of many. For them it was all a game they weren’t even really playing. They seemed to be too busy smiling and dancing, while life felt like something they might be responsible for to some extent, but not anything they would want to get involved with too much. They let it grow and take its course without intervening, except when travelers come for a visit. The whole encounter humbled, puzzled, inspired, and overwhelmed me.
After a while, they took me up to the summit of a mountain. It felt sacred, but my soul started shivering at the freezing storms that were raging on up there, and I finally began making connection to my body, which had been motionless. The skies there had some more astounding visions to show me before my departure, so I relaxed, let go of the cold, and enjoyed the rest of my stay in their realm. Soon, it was all over and I woke up on Earth with all the familiar nature still there, like nothing had happened at all. I was under for a total of about 45 earthly minutes due to the MAOI we had ingested earlier. This had been by far the most intense journey of my life.
The people I had shared this experience with all had vastly different trips. Most were sub-threshold, some were dark. But everyone was fine in the end. Some did it again the next day, whereas I wondered how it was possible that the first one wasn’t too much for them. I found it difficult discussing my trip with most, as it was so different from theirs. They weren’t as enthusiastic to tell, or maybe, for some reason, felt like they hadn’t experienced enough to share. One person had a similar experience and it felt immensely soothing to exchange stories of our wanderings. Over the next few days, I felt an incredibly powerful connection to all of my fellow travelers; we had intense bonding moments just looking at and making physical contact with each other.
It was difficult walking around with all the knowledge that had been bestowed on me. My friends who hadn’t partaken listened carefully to my vivid stories of pure fascination, but couldn’t really understand what I was talking about. I felt lonely and isolated, and understood that I would somehow have to find a way to integrate what had happened and continue on with my earthly existence.
Attending lectures on consciousness and integration at the festival certainly helped fend off the loneliness, and understand I wasn’t the only one to experience it so profoundly. But I still knew I was going to have to let go of a good chunk of the influence it had on me.
So I continued to enjoy the rest of the peaceful festival and to spread my newfound appreciation for life and love for the next few weeks, until what felt like the most vivid and wild waking dream slowly began to feel like a distant memory.