Who Are You?
I’ve got a couple posts in the works, but right now I want to write something off the cuff. Its been an interesting week to say the least for me personally and I’m doing a lot of processing.
On the down side, my “day job” bartending has been more stressful than ever. As far as the public is concerned, COVID is over and they are ready to party. But since COVID pulled back the curtain on how horrible working in this industry is for most people – low pay, horrible working conditions, and the dehumanization of tipped worked by the general public – we are severely understaffed. So we are now at pre-COVID sales numbers for our busy-season, in spite of the fact this traditionally our slow season and we have literally half the staff. The mental and physical toll that takes on a person is punishing and unsustainable. Everyone around me at work is feeling it and morale is low.
Fortunately, for myself, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, I have an exit plan.
On the upside, I had a pretty huge personal break-through this week, which I’ve been seeing the impact of – especially under the above mentioned extremely stressful conditions.
WARNING: THE REST OF THIS POST CONTAINED REFRENCES TO DRUG USE, IT IS INTENDED FOR MATURE ADULTS.
For several years now, I’ve been exploring the use of psychedelic’s for personal growth and exploration. I know many people are at least passingly familiar with using them for recreational purposes, and I have done that too. But for me, from the first time I tried mushrooms, about 9 years ago, the experience has been far more sacramental than celebrational. I use psychedelics to gain personal understanding of things I’m struggling with or move me closer to personal goals.
To give you an example, I’ll start with my first trip. On a warm sunny day, I drank mushroom tea with my girlfriend at the time and another friend, expecting to have a good time with them. Soon after the drug began to take effect, I felt the need to be alone and I retreated to my bedroom. There I lay on my bed, eyes closed, and just letting my mind wander. I found myself filing through old memories. The most interesting part for me was that I found I was able to re-experience the emotions of the memory, to feel it vividly in my body, and extend it and amplify it.
I remember reliving my first kiss, and all the mixed and wonderful feelings of excitement, anxiety, wonder and sexuality mingling in my body. It was an amazing experience.
Since then, I’ve had a number of amazing experiences using various psychedelics, including guided trips and micro-dosing, and assisted people on their own journeys with them. I absolutely believe, under the right circumstances, they are a powerful and useful tool for a variety of mental and emotional goals. If you’re interested, I recommend reading the book The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide by James Fadiman, PhD.
Unlike other chemicals, the experience with psychedelics is very dependent on your mental and emotional state at the time of taking them. While I have never had a “bad trip” I have had some uncomfortable experiences and some insights I did not like. I was prepared for such things and open to facing my own mistakes and flaws, so I was able to move through those. I have seen others, keen for a good time, struggle with the sides of themselves they are trying to run away from while tripping. Psychedelics don’t always show you a want or expect, the do always show you what you need to see – whether you learn and grow from that is up to you.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been on an intense journey of realignment, searching for what is next for me in life. That process has involved a great deal of self-examination, exploration, learning, examination of beliefs and values, and letting go. Much of this process came to a head during COVID, and ultimate lead to my decision to begin offering professional life coaching, and leaving behind my career as a bartender.
As with any new thing in life, there are always doubts. While my friends and clients have universally expressed to me that this is truly what I am meant to do, and I have come to believe this as well, there has remained that nagging inner critic that questions my choice. The voice that says, “who are you to tell people how to live?” In spite of the fact people literally come to me, unsolicited for that very advice. “How can you have credibility when you aren’t rich and famous?” As if we don’t daily see rich and famous people failing utterly to be happy.
The difference between reasoning out something and believing it to the core of your being is huge. It can take a long time to instill a new belief deeply in yourself, even if you know it will profoundly change your life, because every new belief connects to all your other beliefs like the strands of a spider web. This process of examining and realigning beliefs has been one I’ve been on for a long time, it has had a great impact on my life for the better, but it is not easy.
This past week, I felt like I wanted to use the tool of psychedelics to explore my goals. With drugs like these, you can’t really be more specific, like I said, they will show you what you need, not what you want.
So I took my dose. I began by, yet again, writing out my “ideal self” and “Ideal life” until I felt the effects coming on. Then I laid down in the dark with some music and closed my eyes. Over the next few hours I lived the entirety of the universe. That’s the best I can explain it. It was what Fadiman would could an ego-shattering experience, where the sense of being an individual is lost, and the oneness of all things is profoundly felt and understood. Some who are religiously-minded express it as meeting God. I felt I met me – myself as part of the all things, I am the universe, the universe is me. Yes, that sounds really hippy-dippy and metaphysical, but I don’t really have words to express what I felt, except to say it was blissful and beautiful and profound.
As “I” returned, the real “Work” of the trip began. Though it wasn’t effort. My thoughts wandered and I began to make all sorts of realizations and connections that seemed so obvious I couldn’t believe I’d missed them. In a way, it was like I’d been trying to put together a puzzle, while keeping it in the box, and suddenly, I dumped the box out and was able to see everything and how all the pieces fit together. By the time it was over and I felt all the effects had worn off, I possessed a new understanding of myself, my place in the universe and my role in society, and it is one I’m at completely peace with.
I want to be clear, I am not recommending psychedelics as some shortcut to inner peace. This was just one step in a process I have been working through for a long time. Had I not done the all the self-study and self-examination and exploration, over all the months leading up to this, I am certain my experience would have been different.
The After Effects
A little over a year ago, before COVID began, I walked into a restaurant and sat at the bar. I was alone, in a particularly good mood, and had decided to get a drink and some dinner. A couple, who appeared to be on a date, was seated near by. The moment I walked in, I noticed them watching me, the man particularly. I ordered my wine and looked over the menu and continued to feel them watching me, I even had the impression I had become the topic of their conversation.
Then, the man stood up and walked over and asked, “Excuse me, but who are you?”
“I’m Charles,” I answered, a bit confused.
He went on to explain that by how I walked in, they way I moved, or whatever, he wasn’t exactly sure, he was certain I was someone he should know, a CEO of some big company or someone else of significance. (If you’ve ever seen me, I doubt CEO is the first thing you’d assume about me!) I laughed, told him I was just a bartender and we spoke for a minute or two, but he was clearly perplexed. From the look of him, I would assume (though I do not know) he was an executive of some sort, well off, and “successful” by most people’s standards. And his reaction to finding out my job was one of veiled disappointment, it seemed that he could not reconcile his impression of me with what did for a living.
I was extremely flattered by the entire interaction and found it somewhat amusing. For the time, I just put it up to being in a good mood and carrying myself with confidence. I’d been doing a lot of inner work by that time, and assumed this was a result of my progress.
Fast forward to this weekend, a few days after my trip.
I’m working behind the bar with another bartender. We are “in the weeds,” meaning we are busy beyond are capacity to offer the level of service we expect to give – guest have to wait to long for our attention, we have to manage a full bar, plus unseated guests, plus the drink rung in for all the seated guests in the building all at once. Its a very stressful and high paced situation and I have to still deliver service with a friendly and warm attituded and try to make every guest feel like they are important and getting my full attention.
(I used to compare this to working the NYSE trading floor during the 80’s, before computerized trading, but I now realize even those guys didn’t have to worry about being warm and friendly, they could just shout at each other all the liked!)
In the midst of all this, I walked by two women sitting at the far end of the bar – the end mostly being managed by my fellow bartender – whom I had not even noticed before, clearly they’d been sitting their for awhile being served by the other bartender, with empty plates and glasses in front of them. As I walked past, they waved me down. I stopped to see what they needed, a refill, another round, their check?
“What’s your name?” one asked. Usually, in this situation, that means they want to complain about something, perhaps my failure to serve them quicker? It happens when we’re that busy, but I didn’t get the feeling from her tone.
“Charles,” I answered, “Can I get you anything?”
“We just wanted to know who you were. Your energy, your vibe, something about you.” That’s what she said. They didn’t need drinks or their check, I had never even talked to them or noticed then for however long they’d been at the bar, and yet they felt compelled to meet me! It was very similar to the couple at the bar months before, I recognized it instantly and began to think about it. What was similar?
The feeling of confidence and calm in my body. Only this time, instead of being off work and out for dinner, I was working in a high stress environment. I realized I didn’t feel the stress like I usually did. I didn’t feel the tension in my shoulders, or face, I felt the hint of a smile around my mouth, I wasn’t plagued by nagging thoughts about what I had to do next, or which guest was going to upset for feeling ignored – I was just going with the flow and letting everything roll off of me, while at the same time, in spite of how busy we were, there was nothing to roll off me- at least nothing I noticed and had to remind myself to “let it go.”
In fact, this was Sunday night. The day before, Saturday, I’d been called in to work early because of how busy we were, and all 5 bartenders work between 9 and 13 hours (I worked 12) straight, without a break for even food, in a night-club like atmosphere, our 26,000 square foot bar at capacity the whole time. I had been as calm and confident and in control through all of that, and had to come in early again on Sunday for similar reasons. Yet, after all that prolonged stress and labor, and the stiffness and soreness of my body, by late Sunday night when I normally would have been stressed out, exhausted and grumpy, I was virtually radiating some sort of aura that made strangers want to know who I was!
Where did that come from? I believe its the result of my experience with psychedelics earlier that week. I believe the inner peace that comes from knowing absolutely who I am and why I’m here is what creates that. I have felt that from time to time in life, when I have been able to truly be present in the moment, but it has not been a consistent thing. But now I feel like I’ve made some sort of break through, one that will last. I don’t really think I needed the experience with the two women to confirm that feeling, but it is further evidence that something in me has changed.
Now, as I move forward toward my goals, building my business, serving my clients, creating a new life for myself, I have literally no doubts about what I’m doing. I’m not just saying that, my inner critic has been silent. I even, for the first time in my life, have a feeling that my ideal partner is out there some how circling to enter my life (but that’s a whole other post for another time.)
So many people in the world struggle with feeling like they don’t belong or have no meaning or purpose in life, I truly hope to change that. What are your thoughts about my experience? Have you been through something similar? Or are you working to reach this point in your journey? Do you think I’m full of shit and this glow won’t last? Let me know in the comments, I look forward to it!