My DMT Breakthrough
Recounting the most impossible experience of my lifetime.
The everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that people of colour, women, LGBT populations or those who are marginalized experiences in their day-to-day interactions with people.
Becoming an aficionado of psychedelics, it was inevitable I would come to experience what many describe to be the strongest of them all — DMT.
For those unfamiliar with the drug, there is a lot to be said about DMT.
It is the active ingredient in the Shamanic substance Ayahuasca, commonly referred to as the spirit molecule for its spiritual benefit, or colloquially as the businessman’s trip, due to its relatively surprising short duration of 20 minutes.
Despite the fear and anxiety before ingesting such a substance, it was certainly an appealing prospect that I could effortlessly fit a 20 minute appointment with God in my schedule.
Indeed, I would soon learn it is no exaggeration that people enter an ineffable and impossible realm — claiming to meet God, other deities, clockwork elves, and one’s life capriciously flashing before one’s eyes.
Though lasting 20 minutes on average, people often report feeling like they had been gone for much longer; we’re talking months. The distortion of time is a fact familiar to those who have experienced psychedelics before, but DMT is unique in respect to its short duration in this realm, yet an eternity in another.
Such grandiose claims about DMT make it naturally intriguing to many, but this comes with an understandable amount of fear. The feeling of dying and come back to life, though leaving a lasting impact on you, is not a comfortable one.
At least with LSD and shrooms, you can take some time off and laugh about ways the world is wonky with your friends, but DMT feels more like a catapult to another dimension.
What I have personally found most intriguing about DMT is its natural occurrence in animals, nature, and even within us. It is allegedly true that DMT is found in our brains — with some theorising the substance is released during dreams, and potentially during death. This was initially a hypothesis which eventually became all the more convincing when a 2011 study found its natural occurrence in rats.
If that is true, there is some irony to enjoy in the fact that every individual possesses a highly illegal substance their entire life.
But taking DMT is not as simple or casual as ingesting other recreational drugs. As Terrence McKenna had instructed, there is an anecdotally tried-and-true method to ensure one could ‘breakthrough’ on DMT, thereby completely departing from the Earthly realm.
The method is to take three long inhalations of smoked DMT through a pipe for around 15 seconds — each drag tasting more of vile bitter plastic than the previous, accompanied by a sharp harrowing sound, with visuals becoming more lucid and perfect before one’s soul is ripped out of one’s body and dimension.
The mythical breakthrough is difficult to achieve, because in very literal respects, it feels like taking that third, final drag is surely going to be the one that kills you. I had a few unsuccessful initial attempts with my friend, which though considered a ‘mild dose’ in DMT land, still had strong remnants of feeling interconnected with everything and super bright visuals.
But I know this wasn’t the experience everyone was talking about.
Even though DMT is physically harmless, it still takes a lot to remind yourself in the midst of smoking it that it is impossible to die. It took a few times beforehand to get past this mental barricade, but nothing to this day has ever vividly felt like I had actually died.
I took my first drag from the pipe, with DMT looking like desert sand sandwiched between some weed, and held it in for 15 seconds. The taste of the bitter plastic tasted the most disgusting, and made it difficult to breathe in for a long period of time.
Upon exhalation, I knew I had to immediately take my next one to have any chance of breaking through. A loud, yet inviting ringing sound pervaded my hearing.
As I take another drag in, I become much less focused on how the burnt plastic tastes, and now concerned that I am about to die, and what I am smoking is literally killing me.
But I was determined to not give up here, in the midst of feeling my existence swallowed by a black hole.
It is letting go of the fear of death that allowed me to truly escape into the next dimension. Once I had embraced this fact, and took the final drag, my soul was ripped from the tethers of my body, and I went elsewhere…
The music became vivid, and I felt the familiar synesthesia (confusion of senses) I did on LSD…except my mind was rapidly imagining patterns with geometry that felt completely impossible.
I felt as if my ego and personality ceased to exist, but I grasped an idea of an eternal soul much larger than mine.
My matter, my ‘energy’ returned to what felt like a transcendent higher order to the universe which I, and everything else in our world, had always belonged to.
What exactly this higher power is, I do not know. I felt that trying to define it further would distort the indescribable quality of what it was.
But it felt like all energy belonged to it, and it was eternal, some place our remaining energy returns to when we have left this Earthly realm.
Many would describe it as ‘God’, which is a convenient term if describing a more pantheistic conception of God — where the universe we are composed of itself contains some omniscient truth, and we are the conscious receptacles of this matter which is fundamentally here to experience itself.
I recall a warm glow in my body, but I couldn’t keep up with much of it as I felt torn across different timelines, my memories fragmented into minuscule pieces, and rapidly conceiving multiple possibilities of the distant future.
I couldn’t tell whether it was real. It felt real.
I recall being 2 years old again, until I was instantly transported to remembering my teenage experience at school, and then holding the hands of my girlfriend at an elderly age. It was weird.
It very much felt like this was a movie I would watch moments before my death. The whole life flashing before your eyes trope in Hollywood was no longer a cliché.
Rather than emphasising with the religious quality of my breakthrough, I greatly empathised with those who had claims of near-death experiences.
I understood how moments before someone dies, their life could make sense to them in an unexplainable way, where their soul suddenly realises this temporary existence is a puppet show, until it inevitably returns into the source we reside in. At least, something like that.
I returned to the Earthly realm, and immediately checked my phone. 12:20AM. It was exactly 20 minutes. How is that…possible? Did I just die? God knows where I’d been. I look at my friend. He jokes about how “this shit crack”, and how he “ain’t touching this no more”. We laugh together in tears, not knowing where to begin, or how to decipher what we had just experienced.
I don’t think he broke-through the same way I did, but we agreed our experience shared many of the same sentiments — the impossible geometry, warped time, and a deeper sense of feeling connected to everything.
But I don’t think he saw God or anything like that. At one point he was throwing up in the sink. I guess that goes to show the DMT breakthrough experience is subjective.
I rushed towards my laptop to write everything I experienced to the best of my memory, spewing broken words only to edit them later into something easier to understand. On top of recounting everything as best I could, one particular notion stuck out above the rest — a particularly lucid thought:
There exist natural expressions of life: like love, beauty, and power. Humans may only temporarily grasp these, but cannot control or conquer them.
Our egos get in the way of our pure intentions, and think we can obtain and possess these things, when the truth is more that we are called to experience them.
These are not in our making. It is not necessarily that someone creates love for another when they love someone, but become connected to broader expressions laying internally in our fabric.
It reveals itself in our natural encounters in life.
I took DMT a year ago, and the memory remained vivid thanks to these notes I had written. Retrospectively, the feeling of dying and coming back to life isn’t a sensation I want to experience again. Even after being a ‘seasoned tripper’, it was the most intense thing I had ever felt. Ever.
For this reason, I don’t recommend people take DMT even if it is “only twenty minutes”. When I tell people this story, it often inadvertently presents itself as an advertisement for a daring theme park ride, when it is more like a traumatic simulation of death.
Regardless whether anything revealed an objective truth, I like to think my experience had humbled me and somehow brought me closer to spirituality. It restored a faith in God I felt was always there, but not the usual kind described by many religions.
Most of all, my breakthrough injected a much-needed wanderlust to life, a mysticism that is all too forgotten in a modern world pervaded by science.
I truly think trying to speculate or define the experience further strays us further from the truth of it. Some things should simply remain a mystery.
Anyone could spend their lives deciphering the experience, but I felt both now and at the time that the DMT experience was either a one-off experience, or a rabbit-hole of delusion one could get lost in.
But I’m sure at some point, I will probably experience it again — whether I am alive, dead, or somewhere in between.