Episode 3: Walking in the Bardo
That Spring I cleared all the overgrowth and debris from the garden. The poppies bloomed at the same time and were not bothered by the rain. It seemed that life had found a rhythm, a normalcy.
I am sitting on the floor waiting to blast off. My destination is what my new friends call “the spaceship.” This is DMT, transcendence in a hot flash, five minutes into that other place and ten minutes for the journey back.
I barely know these people. I just met them a few weeks ago when an improbable mutual friend introduced us. This is only the second time we have hung out, but now they are about to chaperone my husband and I through our first and only DMT experience.
Before it was the subject of documentaries and discussed openly on podcasts and Reddit, DMT was the stuff of legend: an entheogen talked about in hushed circle, a badge of psychedelic honor for all who had tried it and came back to tell the tale. I believe you should try everything in life at least twice (since the first time is mostly nerves and uncertainty). Our new friends have only enough DMT left for my partner and I to go one time, so the pressure is on to do this right.
I hit the pipe; the DMT is harsh and hard to hold down even for a seasoned cigarette smoker like me. I get the hit down; my lungs are aching; the corners of the room begin to move like they are stuck in glue and I am pulling them toward me. I have not taken enough. I hit again, hold the smoke as long as I can, then collapse back onto the floor as the material realm collapses.
There is the sound of space/time being ripped open as I am shot through a tunnel of light to a place that is utterly foreign yet instantly familiar. It is a multidimensional realm of visual information and light. Before me is the jeweled-fractal veil that cross this space like an ER curtain. Many get lost here, caught in the trans-dimensional shimmering of informational objects, but I push through which requires the shredding of my corporeal body. Giant gears and lasers surround me and shred my body, then I am free to pass through.
Bringing back stories from this realm, from what I saw there, from the information that was downloaded to me, is a pointless endeavor. What I experienced there was intensely personal, unwinding like strands of DNA deep into my familial history, beyond the confines of language.
A few fragments from my journals of this time: A wolf the size of dragons, astral bodies of other travelers, the flash of a yellow figure in the room, my grandmother in the river of Gethsemane, cherub beings--one who pushes a shimmering multidimensional triangle of light into my chest before it goes, a fractal veil like a peacock tail, fractal realities cascading and colliding offering infinite variety and variation, calm/purpose, illusion, time does not exist, actual living Gods, love connects all beings in all realms of creation.
In Buddhism the Bardo is the realm that the dead enter after death—the same as purgatory to some Christians. It’s a waiting room where all that we lived is revealed and where Karma takes us to our next incarnation. In Buddhism, we remain in this place for 49 days. The enlightened, during the time, are able to learn great lessons so that they might have a more generous rebirth: 49 days the length of time between death and rebirth; 49 days the point in an embryo’s development where Buddhist believe we gain a soul; 49 days when sex is determined in embryonic development; 49 days when the pineal gland develops in the embryo’s brain.
Descartes hypothesized that the pineal gland is the “seat of the soul.” Modern science has discovered that DMT is produced by the pineal gland in the human brain. It is theorized that this substance is the root of both dreams and near death experiences. The pineal gland resembles an eye, and it located at the exact point of the “third eye” chakra—the point where many believe we access cosmic consciousness.
Another theory: When we die, the pineal gland releases all of the DMT that it has stockpiled. Death, literally, is a massive DMT trip. DMT might very well be the chemical gateway of the soul into/out of the body.
By smoking DMT, we approximate a near death experience, we walk on the other side of the veil for a few moments and then return to live out the rest of our incarnation—to love, to lose, to win, to die. Within an hour, our bodies metabolize the entheogen and there is no trace of the it left in our bodies.
Madness is to know what waits on the other side.
Each of us will walk in the Bardo, see the light which permeates all things. What we learn there and where we go next depends upon what we make of this lifetime, this incarnation. Our destinations are not all the same.
For weeks afterwords I walk through the world homesick. My house does not feel like my home. My friends seem like strangers to me. I am alien, out of touch with all that made me my self. Is this how madness feels?
There was a playlist of music on my computer that I had worked on for three years. I knew it was important but it would never come together. I compulsively added and subtracted from it, mixed it, threw away every previous draft. Then, one night after DMT, I sat down at my computer and added the Ravi Shankar track that had been playing during my trip. I instantly went to my hard drive and grabbed a few other tracks that had been right in front of me the whole time. I set up my mixer and recorded “Walking in the Bardo” in one take. It was an out of body experience—an experience with art that I have rarely known before or since.
Even now when I listen to this mix, it feels like another hand made it. If I die and you are left to put together my funeral, please play this and skip the preaching.
Transcendence comes at a cost. Not all who travel in these realms can come back to the material world and find their way.
Six years later the yard, the house, my husband, my profession, and my wealth would all be taken from me. I will be starting over by trying to speak through broken glass.
That spring all the poppies bloomed at the same time and were not bothered by the rains. We went out seeking transcendence, but madness followed us home.
Raga Kausi Kanhra by Ravi Shankar
Laida and Mikel looking for rhymes. (Basque, Laida Juanikorena Agirre, Mikel Azcona) by Alessandro Bosetti
Lunar Cement Sidewalk by Nurse With Wound
Mantra by Tool
Akan Drumming Pan by African Orchestra
Bizness by tUnE-yArDs
Tunnels by People of the North
Never been to Konono by aboombong
Death is not final by Shackleton
I Want To Go Home by James
Infra 5 by Max Richter