When I was around 24 or 25 I took a long lead fall while rock climbing just below the Grand Wall of the Stawamus Chief in Squamish BC. It was the most profound, bizarre, ineffable and transformational experience of my life. I have always had difficulty trying to describe that experience in words – hence its ineffable quality. There were many incredible sensations and “awarenesses” that took place during that experience, but the one which has always defied even a cursory description, was the one of unity. But when I read this paragraph from Steve Taylor (author of The Leap, Spiritual Science etc) in some course notes from a past transpersonal psychology graduate program, that last part really hit home (“he or she may feel that they are the universe”).
“While in a high intensity awakening experience, the whole material world may dissolve away into an ocean of blissful radiant spirit-force, which the individual feels is the essence of the universe, and of their own being; he or she may feel that they are the universe.”
~ Steve Taylor
For a moment in that state, as Sadhguru is quoted describing his own awakening experience “I did not know what is me and what is not me. What was me was spread all over the place.” I really felt like I was “aware” of the entire universe all at the same time. Like I “was” the entire universe conscious of itself! How bizarre is that? And how can you not be changed forever by such an experience? How can you not look at your own existence differently, your own life and death, after experiencing an interconnectedness with the entire universe?
Although this awakening experience while falling off the Chief was evoked through trauma (most are according to Steve Taylor’s research), these same experiences can and often are, also experienced in deep psychedelic states. No surprise then to learn science has discovered that psychedelics can provide incredible psychological, emotional and existential relief to those struggling with end-of-life distress. And in fact one of the first Canadian initiatives to support the legal use of psychedelics for those dealing with end-of-life distress, occured in August of 2020 when our Health Minister Parry Hajdu granted a Section 56 exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), so that four terminally ill patients could ease their existently end-of-life distress with psychedelics. 2020 was actually a landmark year for Canada’s support of psychedelic medicines.
Having recently been diagnosed with (likely) Stage IV esophageal cancer which has metastasized to my spine (T8) and skull, I am now reflecting more intimately and immediately on my own mortality. I am immensely grateful to have had that profound consciousness-shifting and transformational awakening experience at such a young age. Although to be honest, over a decade of serious rock climbing gave me MANY profound and perspective-shifting experiences which have helped shape how I am responded to this recent cancer diagnosis.
I am also PROFOUNDLY grateful for the immense psychological and physical/pain relief that cannabis is providing me right now. I am PROFOUNDLY grateful for having been able to spend more than a decade rock climbing and for having pushed myself to where I had that near-death, transformational awakening experience during a long fall. I am also PROFOUNDLY grateful for the many psychedelic experiences I had as a young man, and the many exploratory, healing, revealing and transformational psychedelic experiences I have had over the last 3 years, and which I continue to explore to this very day. My ability to accept, integrate and fully respond to this recent diagnosis of (likely Stage IV) cancer was clearly formed through these experiences of awakening and psychedelics. I only hope the universe will afford me a bit more time to try and help spread and advocate for, the medical, psychological and humanitarian value of psychedelics.
I am also PROFOUNDLY grateful for the humanitarian and evidence-based work, policy efforts, community-building efforts, legalisation efforts and advocacy of psychedelic science and medicine of both MAPS Canada and the Canadian Psychedelic Association (CPA). I am also incredibly grateful, and honoured, to have been able to volunteer briefly with both organisations.
Please consider supporting the important humanitarian efforts of both MAPS Canada and the Canadian Psychedelic Association (CPA). They (and many others in Canada) are leading the way in helping deliver these healing and transformational medicines to those most in need.
Canadian Psychedelic Association
Psychedelics, Microdosing & Wellness
Photo: Me after gleefully completing/leading the Buttress Route on the Stawamus Chief around 1983/84.