In 2015 I found out that you can take tiny amounts of psychedelic substances, like psilocybin or LSD, and enjoy periods of peak physical and mental activity. Shimmering Silicon Valley tycoons in swivel chairs typed furiously at the periphery of my consciousness for the next couple of years, as the canon of identikit indie lifestyle magazines went increasingly apeshit. As microdosing began to sidle into the mainstream media, one thing was clear: reporting that business professionals are microdosing psychedelics was “in.”
Rolling Stone dubbed it “the hot new business trip.” Forbes hailed the bisected blotter as “the new job enhancer in Silicon Valley” and Business Insider ripped the crotch of its navy blues leaning over to blare from the passing bandwagon about “the new productivity craze.”
I was skeptical. Microdosing psychedelics didn’t sound very psychedelic. Surely your “mind-manifesting,” as Sir Humphrey Osmond meant when he coined “psychedelic” in a letter to Aldous Huxley in 1956, to any degree is the last thing you want to happen in front of your (micro)manager whilst synthesising your ubiquitous “work mask?” “To fathom hell or soar angelic,” the adage goes, book Monday off and set up your “out-of-office” replies…
It seemed sacrilegious to chop a precious portal to an alternate reality up into tenths, but to then syphon the magic into the apparently antithetical realm of the workplace?! The psychedelic obeisance – however cutting-edge – was not for me. (Clearly, my mind changed.)
EPIPHANY #1: YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE A “WORK MASK” AND A “REAL SELF”
At Beyond Psychedelics -a three day conference on psychedelic science and drug policy- in 2016, I encountered The Third Wave and discovered that the practical logistics of microdosing are infinitesimally more carefully considered than the mainstream media suggests. Equally influentially, I met people I could relate to who do it: academics, psychologists, permaculture designers.
Nobody was using psychedelics to intensify the realism of any kind of mask. People who loved their work before they’d begun microdosing were simply doing it with a sub-perceptual sparkle. Perhaps psychedelics and professionalism are not a necessarily perverse combination.
EPIPHANY #2: FILL YOUR HEADSPACE WITH SOMETHING YOU LOVE
I took the plunge in February. I left a soulless desk job, and, galvanized by life events and pivotal conversations, I was ready to focus on projects I believe in. Of all the advice I picked up at Beyond Psychedelics, one particular pearl of wisdom rolled around my mind: “Never microdose to get through an activity that would otherwise be a slog. Let it feed into something you love.”
EPIPHANY #3: THE INTELLIGENCE AND TECHNICALITY YOU CAN BRING TO MICRODOSING IS LIMITLESS…
Read everything on The Third Wave; read The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide; keep a diary. When I next microdose with liquid, I’ll use a dropper; it’d be nice to be confident I haven’t dealt myself any macro-doses… On this occasion, I ate humble pie, cut a 100ug tab of 1P-LSD, a designer LSD analogue, roughly into tenths, and took one first thing in the morning every four days.
There was never a cycle in which I felt no benefits, but some doses felt stronger than the intended 10-15ug. The extra zing was always pleasant to navigate. A morning spent whizzing through emails would be punctuated by inward hallelujahs: “no one in the library knows I’m a mermaid!”
My perception of different dose strengths was psychosomatic; bigger pieces felt more promising. Getting Higher author Julian Vayne explains that anticipation and expectation can lead us to simulate a come-up before we’ve dropped. My experience echoes this; I never saw the visuals tripping trained me to expect, but hovered near the excitement that precedes them.
EPIPHANY #4: …BUT YOU ARE NOT
Microdosing made me a keener listener. Each catch-up left me feeling thoroughly immersed in my friends’ lives. But being staunchly ensconced in the present can offer false sensations of physical invincibility. I became so amazing at making whisky disappear that I believed I’d become immune to hangovers, twice. I had not.
Another evening, tediously, I delivered every sentence as though the punchline to a perpetual joke fizzed on the tip of my tongue. My intonation wasn’t alone in physical fatigue; I slept wondrously deeply, particularly after dosing days. As my bodymind acclimated, the tiredness diminished.
EPHIPHANY #5: SOMETIMES IT REALLY IS THAT SIMPLE
On days one and two of each dose cycle, my subconscious appeared to have gone to a spa. In the quiet, I appreciated fallen berries glinting in grass that I walk past every day. On a deeper, non-visual level, I discovered fundamental elements of life that my mind’s undercurrent of chatter usually distracts me from registering.
This uncharacteristic wokeness coalesced into awareness that we live in an environment we craft;someone’s made that sculpture, (someone’s peed all over its base), someone’s tending the trees. We all-too-often passively accept environments when we have the power to shape them. We could even approach concrete jungles with the same brand of can-do creativity that constructs festival sites. I bought a cactus.
EPIPHANY #6: THE NEGATIVE HYPE IN YOUR HEAD IS OPTIONAL; CHANGE THE CHANNEL
I hadn’t realized I was in a spell of depression, and microdosing inadvertently helped me face some demons. I was allowed to choose not to engage with my ragbag of professional and personal insecurities:
“You can’t start [that] because you haven’t finished [this]” (Cue a sequence of unfinishable tasks attempted in obsessive-compulsive order before the ‘Day’s Work’ can begin.) “The thing you’re trying to do is a tiny thread in a giant tapestry of ideas; you have to already know about them all.” “You’ve fucked it.” “Your mind isn’t interesting enough.”
When you’re free from hissing dead-end anxieties, the day develops extra pockets of time to focus on things that matter to you. I was lucky enough to have almost a full month of Ayelet Waldman-style Really Good Days.
EPIPHANY #7: PRODUCTIVITY’S THE PRODUCT OF BELIEVING IN YOUR END-GOAL
On one Particularly Good Day, I opened my laptop like a Christmas present and proceeded to create a spreadsheet. By 1pm, it contained the details of more than 30 journalists who I hoped might be interested in publicizing the Psychedelic Press authors. By 5pm, I had contacted them all. I’m allergic to spreadsheets; I want the world to love these books. Go figure.
When you’re focussed on a meaningful end-goal, everything feeds into its narrative. A delayed train is a gift: an extra five minutes to send an email. (And ample time to do so, now that you’re not someone who agonizes over the wording anymore….right?!)
EPIPHANY #8: LOVE ANIMALS, DON’T EAT THEM (EVERY DAY)
Another facet of presentism involved flirting with veganism. Plant-based diets run deep in psychedelic communities. Seeing meat as intrinsic to our diet is a habit. Are you even hungry? We’re encouraged to listen to our bodies, and microdosing allowed me to hear mine. More often than not, they’re craving something more molecular than the hotwings of our under-exercised imaginations.
Carefulness characterizes the microdosing movement. We’re putting tiny amounts of substances into our bodies and acutely monitoring our reactions, as exemplified by the 418 participants in Fadiman’s 2017 study. It’s exciting to be in this microclimate of mindfulness (especially as it presents an alternative to diehard British drinking culture). Microdosing is all about becoming the best version of you.