Are substance-free psychedelic experiences possible?

psychedelic experience guidance cape town south africa spiritual awakening music therapy

Short answer: yes.

Longer answer: I have encountered surprisingly many people (older, younger and from all walks of life) who want to experience something of the the mind-manifesting nature of psychedelics without taking a substance. Some people are averse to the idea of substance-induced altered states of consciousness from pre-conceived ideas about “drugs”, some cannot explore any mind altering substances because of medications or psychological predispositions. Some don’t want to get entangled in something that is not legal. Some simply don’t like the idea of ingesting anything that affects their consciousness so profoundly. Some prefer to be in control. Some are fearful. These are all valid concerns.

Yet still, such individuals seek a transcendent (possibly spiritual) encounter that is different to everyday, waking life and that offers up something deeper, possibly holding more meaning, truth and authenticity than their ‘ordinary’ reality. In my experience, these individuals are usually on a voyage of self-exploration, igniting creativity, navigating a life transition and/or discovering meaning in life. My hope-filled and honest response is always yes, there certainly are ways to enter altered states of consciousness without any substances or plant medicines.

Psychedelic literally means ‘mind-manifesting’ or ‘mind-expanding’, the Greek root is psyche (mind, soul) dêlos (manifest, visible). Meditation is one avenue to such experiences, yet this usually takes a great deal of practice before potentially experiencing anything of a psychedelic nature. Still, I highly recommend a steady meditation practice for many, many reasons which I won’t address here. To get started with a meditation practice, the following apps are very useful: https://wakingup.com/ or https://www.headspace.com/.

I work with music and deep relaxation into an altered state of consciousness, eliciting imagery in the mind’s eye that allows the ‘traveller’ transcendent, even psychedelic-type experiences. However, the ‘traveller’ also retains complete personal control and is able to effortlessly emerge from the experience at any point. No substances or plant medicines are used and they do not need to be in order for the process to be effective. Guided Imagery and Music is a technique developed by Helen Bonny after working alongside the renown psychedelic researcher Stanislov Grof in LSD trials of the sixties. Bonny developed a “non-drug, psychedelic technique of music-listening for psychotherapeutic ends.”

This music-listening technique takes place in a 1.5 hour session, the traveller comfortably lying on a couch in an undisturbed, safe and comfortable setting (such as a therapist’s room). During the session, the guide will talk with the client/traveller and work toward setting an intention for the journey. A specific music program that relates directly to the traveller’s mental set and intention – a music program designed to elicit imagery, emotions, memories and even sensations – is selected by the guide. The traveller is taken through a deepening relaxation induction and reminded of their intention. When the selected music plays, the traveller journeys with the music in this deepened, relaxed and in fact altered state of consciousness.

Imagery, storylines and emotions may appear, sometimes sensations and memories, all emerging from the unconscious mind and guided by the music. During this process, the traveller is always free to ‘come out’ of the experience, should they want to. This is unlike a substance-based psychedelic experience, such as a psilocybin journey, where one is locked into the journey until the substance/medicine wears off. The guide asks questions and helps to deepen and intensify the experience. Afterward, the traveller makes marks on paper (creates a mandala), which is a creative output that helps to solidify and integrate the journey and is used for verbally processing the experience.

Guided Imagery and Music sessions are usually conducted once a week over a period of time, as personal narratives, archetypal material and images from the unconscious are developed and worked with.

If you are interested in exploring your consciousness through an alternative, experiential and substance-free way, click here. Offered in Cape Town, South Africa.

Note: BMGIM guides require extensive and rigorous training. I am currently in advanced training in the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music.

Discovering Meaning in Transition

If life is a journey, most of us can identify transitional points along the way and perhaps some of us are negotiating these now. Transitions bring change, transformation, creativity and hope but they are often made of loss, confusion, illness and anger. You can, however, harness the power of transitional moments or periods in your life, heal and move into new spaces, finding meaning in the journey.

I am privileged to have been witness to the courage of my clients: those learning to embrace new things, those accepting themselves or others, those finally saying no, those finding their voices, those learning to let go, those walking the difficult path of grief and those navigating the treacherous waters of mental and physical health problems.

Clients have said that the sessions validated where they currently are and gave “permission to go into the future”.

Discovering meaning in transition is essential in order to tie our story together and make sense of who we are. This allows us to walk a full circle and brings a sense of completion to each journey we take, whether it be relationship-oriented, career-oriented, health-oriented or self-development-oriented. Only from this space of self-knowledge can we make sense of what we want, where we want to be and where we have come from. The process of meaning making and engaging with ourselves so deeply and honestly is difficult at times – sometimes it seems easier to forget or ignore parts of who we are or where we are. Yet our core or essence — our true self — wants to enter into conversation with us and bring transformation, healing and integration. During these conversations, we begin to discover meaning in transition and it is a rewarding, memorable journey, unique to each individual.

I use a variety of approaches in my practice to facilitate the discovery of meaning in transition including:

ARTS THERAPY – MUSIC THERAPY

DREAM WORK

MANDALA ANALYSIS

GUIDED IMAGERY, SOUND AND MUSIC

VOICE WORK

ECOTHERAPY

DEEP RELAXATION SESSIONS

Sessions are 60 – 90 minutes and aimed at adults and some teenagers. My practice is located in a beautiful garden studio in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa. Please click here to book a session.