The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys - by James Fadiman Ph.D.

To establish the best possible environment for spiritual psychedelic sessions, it is critical to keep in mind six primary factors that most affect the nature and value of these experiences:

  • Set

  • Setting

  • Substance and quantity (dose)

  • Sitter and guide

  • Session

  • Situation

If possible, approach a voyage as a three-day process. Ideally, on the first day, stay quiet and unhurried. Reserve time for self-reflection, spending a portion of the preparation day in nature. Set aside the second day, all day, for the session. Try to take as much as possible of the day after the session to begin to integrate the experience and to record your discoveries and insights. Prior to the session, it's wise to clarify your personal preconceptions about psychedelic experiences, sacred plants, and entheogens in general. In addition, consider and reflect on your understanding of mystical experience, cosmic consciousness, or whatever else you may have heard described that might arise.

Whether you are a novice or an experienced voyager, internal experiences that may be entirely novel for you may occur. These might include:

  • Cascading geometric forms and colors (usually early in the session)

  • Alteration of felt time (expansion and/or contraction of "clock time")

  • Finding yourself in a different reality, as if you had lived or are living in another time or place

  • Being in a different body of either sex

  • Becoming an animal, plant, or microorganism

  • Experiencing your own birth

  • As a session progresses, it is not uncommon to find yourself encountering entities that some refer to as "the presence of spirits." In most cases, these meetings are positive.

To maximize the usefulness of realizations that may occur during your psychedelic voyage, it is invaluable to write out beforehand what you hope to learn, experience, understand, or resolve. Whatever you've written should be available to you and your guide during and after the session.

In addition to clarifying questions, for some people, it is helpful to identify your goals. Your goals may be spiritual: to have direct experience with aspects of your tradition or another tradition, to transcend prior beliefs, even to transcend belief itself. You may hope to have what is called a "unity experience," in which there is no separation between your identity and all else. Your goals may be social: to improve relationships with your spouse, children, siblings, parents, colleagues, friends, and spiritual and secular institutions. Your goals may be psychological: to find insight into neurotic patterns, phobias, or unresolved anger or grief. If you know you want to work in these areas, these guidelines may be insufficient. For these goals, additional preparation is recommended.

As a general practice, encourage the voyager to collect experiences, save discussion about them for later review and reflection, and not even try to figure them out as they occur.

The following factors are important in the determination of setting. Immediate environment: All that is necessary for a safe journey with infinite possibilities is an uncluttered, comfortable room with a couch or bed on which the voyager can rest, a comfortable chair for the guide, and easy access to a bathroom. Having a variety of soft pillows and blankets on hand is usually a good idea. The room should also have some kind of a music system. It is better if the room can be insulated from outside sights and sounds, including people's voices, pets, and phones. Your goal is to create and maintain a simple environment that supports inner quiet. When in doubt, make the space even simpler.

With a sufficient entheogenic dose, indoors or out, the voyager tends to want to spend much of the time, day or night, lying down. An ideal balance might be to allow the more intense segments to take place indoors, then to go outside later in the session.

Music proves to be invaluable in helping people travel beyond their usual thought patterns. Music supports and suggests, so choose wisely. During a session, music becomes a richly layered tapestry of sound and often evokes strong emotions. For most people, the music seems to come from inside one's own body and is not just felt as sound, but also may be perceived as color, shape, texture, odor, or taste. Headphones or ear buds are fine. Stereo speakers near a person's head are good and allow freer movement. Have at least eight hours of music on hand to be able to choose or change selections as needed.

Classical music tends to feel appropriate to most people, even if they have not chosen it. Hovhaness's Mysterious Mountain, Fauré's Requiem, Gregorian chants, solo piano, piano with one or two other instruments, unaccompanied flute, ragas, and indigenous drum recordings can all be used effectively. Anything with words the voyager can understand may be distracting and should not be played after the first hour. Listening to music with closed eyes increases its value and its potential impact. An eyeshade, an eye pillow, or a folded washcloth or scarf makes it easier for the music to be experienced internally.

From 150 to 400 micrograms of LSD is a normal range.


Stage One: Ingesting the Psychedelic

When you feel that the actual experience is beginning, you will probably want to lie down. If you feel comfortable doing so, put on an eyeshade or eye pillow. Once settled, allow yourself to relax, listen to music, observe your breathing and pay attention to any sensations you have in your body. Notice how the music is affecting you

Observe what is going on inside your mind and body, but do not try to control the flow of images and sensations. Allow your mind to take its natural course; relax and observe as your thoughts unfold without any effort. Affirm that all experiences are welcome.

Stage Two: Initial Onset (twenty to fifty minutes)

If, after the initial onset, a person continues to sit up and talk or move around, he or she may need a booster dose. This can be given an hour or more into the session without any problems. A second dose should be about one half of the initial dose. If a deep spiritual journey is going to unfold, it will almost always begin before the second hour is over.

Dosage: A dose that is too low may diminish the intensity or depth of the experience; too large a dose can prevent what happens from being recalled or even understood. If in doubt, begin with a lower dose with the possibility of a booster.

Stage Three: Opening and Letting Go (three to four hours)

At this point, you will be able to: Let go of expectations about the session; let go of personal concerns; let go of concerns about personal issues such as problems in your relationships and habit patterns; let go of each experience, feeling, or visual event as it occurs; let go of your concerns about your personal identity; experience and deepen your awareness of other dimensions of reality. For some people, this is an effortless, ecstatic period; for others it can be disorienting. At some moments, you may be frightened or confused by the content or intensity of your visions. You may experience unusual feelings associated with letting go. These might be physical ("My arm is melting") or emotional ("Am I going crazy?").

Stage Four: Plateau (one to two hours)

Stage Five: The Gentle Glide (next three hours or until the guide and the voyager agree it is time to move on)

Simple finger food (e.g., fresh or dried fruits, nuts, crackers, juice) should be offered. Water should be available all day. The voyager may or may not choose to eat something.

After the peak of your experience, as you are reentering your world, is often an excellent time to do personal work. You will be aware of your usual identity, but not be as attached to your usual habits, templates, or distortions. If you wish--and your guide agrees--this is also a good time to go outside.

Stage Six: The End of the Formal Session

The guided portion of the day of the session should come to an end six to eight hours after taking a shorter-acting substance such as psilocybin or eight to ten hours after taking a longer-acting substance such as LSD or mescaline. You may dip in and out of the experience for the rest of the evening. Don't feel any obligation to be sociable.

You will probably want to spend time starting to integrate what you've experienced. You may still see the world as flowing or sparkling. Enjoy these visual gifts from your own mind. Eat lightly, and be sure you drink enough liquids to replenish yourself.


In the first few weeks after your journey, take time to distill out what matters the most to you from your experience. Don't rush. It is likely that you will find your life flows more easily than before.

You may become more aware than ever before that some people in your life are nourishing and nurturing to you while others are not. Stay with what nourishes you, as you would with food. Stay away, if possible, from anyone who belittles you or tries to diminish your experience.

Do not make major life changes for the first few weeks.


Psychedelic voyages are not like other most other experiences. If you take them again too soon, you cannot expect that they will have the same effect. The rule of thumb is the more profound the experience, the longer you should wait before doing it again. The Guild of Guides suggests a minimum of six months between entheogenic journeys because it takes at least that long for the learning and insights to be absorbed and integrated into your life.


  • The first characteristic is a slowing down of time, a concentration in the present. One's normally compulsive concern for the future decreases, and one becomes aware of the enormous importance and interest of what is happening at the moment. Only those who have cultivated the art of living completely in the present have any use for making plans for the future, for when the plans mature they will be able to enjoy the results.

  • The second characteristic I will call "awareness of polarity." This is the vivid realization that states, things, and events that we ordinarily call opposite are interdependent, like back and front or the poles of a magnet.

  • The third characteristic, arising from the second, is an awareness of relativity.

  • The fourth characteristic is awareness of eternal energy, often in the form of intense white light, which seems to be both the current in your nerves and that mysterious e which equals mc2.

The increased awareness offered by psychedelics comes in different forms. In higher doses taken in safe and sacred settings, they facilitate recognition of one's intimate relationship with all living things. In moderate doses, they facilitate awareness of the intricate psychodynamic structures of one's individual consciousness. In low doses, they facilitate awareness of solutions to technical and artistic problems.


Be conservative in following the protocol, including the amount and the days between doses. Stick with your normal patterns, especially eating, working, and sleeping. Be very discreet as to whom you let know.

Effects: Making Infinity More Transparent. I've regularly felt four kinds of effects from micro-doses: physical, emotional, creative, and spiritual.

"Sub-doses of 10 to 20 micrograms allow me to increase my focus, open my heart, and achieve breakthrough results while remaining integrated within my routine. While a full dose requires that I carefully plan my surroundings, on a sub-dose I am fully able to navigate all manner of logistics and social interactions."


What I learned from my own research is that psychedelics take your life experience and compost it, so that something new can grow. If you don't have much to compost, you may not get much out of it. I always looked at psychedelics as learning tools. Even in the middle of a psychedelic experience, I would begin to think, "I wonder what I'm going to do with this?" In a sense, I wanted it to be over so I could start to get to the digestion and assimilation phase, because the psychedelic experience itself wasn't my major interest.

The question posed by the poet Mary Oliver, "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" is one that psychedelics impel you to take seriously.