CANNABIS CULTURE – Shared MDMA experiences are “like waking from a dream, and having something there to reassure you that not every part of the dream was fake,” says Psychedelic comedian, founder of Hello SciCom and emcee of the Listening to ecstasy Webinar — Sarah Rose Siskind.I signed up for this digital trip expecting to cover a book release party for Charley Wininger’s book about his own journeys with MDMA, and his mission to set the record straight regarding what it can and cannot do.
The bill included people like Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) founder Rick Doblin; Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM) creators and visionaries, Alex and Allyson Grey; and Author of Good Chemistry, The Pot Book, and Ecstasy: The Complete Guide, Julie Holland, MD.
What I attended, though, was a family gathering so warm and caring that it made me miss my own tiny bubble of enlightened hippies. I shed more than a few nostalgic, joyful tears as presenters shared their psychedelic origins, journeys and discoveries—and their resulting manifestations.
“What I always like to say is that it isn’t about the psychedelics. It’s about the community,” Wininger mused. Charley and Shelley Wininger certainly seem to be at the center of theirs. They host regular pot lucks in their home, where they eat, revel in each other’s company, and have serious, important discussions like “What’s your favorite medicine and why?”
Of the natural way their own New York community came together, Wininger noted that “[People] had no one to talk to about the thing that was most important to them. […] So people were just thrilled to be able to talk openly.”
The Winingers may not have been expecting what they fell into, but their lives are fuller because of it. “It was a surprise at the beginning. Shelley and I entered a forbidden world of drug users, and we found it to be enchanted.”
According to Siskind, “You can give vets MDMA to cure their PTSD from wars, or you can give people [civilians]MDMA to stop the wars.”
Julie Holland talked about the blissful stillness she experienced the first time she took MDMA. “The first thing I remember was quiet.” She went on to describe the feeling of clarity that washed over her. “There was something about this, where I could see the whole lay of the land.”
WFMU DJ and host of Sophisticated Boom Boom, Sheila Burgel, shared that her first time taking MDMA helped her recall a traumatic event from when she was very young; and that many of her issues with anxiety at the time were related to the incident from the past.
In those first moments when the MDMA started to kick in, “I am very scared. The fear is so big. I take two breaths. It’s like I climbed through the turbulent clouds into that smooth place.” From there, the emotional work shifted from insurmountable to manageable.
She now takes ecstasy about once a year under therapeutic, integrative supervision. “MDMA is the single most important thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Alex and Allyson Grey told the jubilant story of their first vision of the now famous Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in New York. If you guessed that it was while they were taking MDMA, you would be correct.
Talking over each other, giggling, and weaving a sense of time and space at once separate and so very present, “In this experience we both envisioned the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors—without talking or touching—while blindfolded.”
And the webinar audience collectively melted at the sound of Antonio Cuevas, a Cacique Chief, sharing the time his community of 15 or 20 took MDMA together. His memories of all the different emotions of the group brought everyone in the webinar back in time to that day.
“One Brother pulled his couch out of his house and sat there for, like, the whole eight hours. […] He just kept saying, ‘Thank you, Brother! Thank you!’”
MDMA, like most psychedelics, is a little different for everyone. According to Wininger, “It’s not like marijuana. And it’s not like LSD at all. There’s a shock about what it’s not.”
“Shelley and I have found that MDMA can serve as emotional super glue, or Gorilla Glue. We were fine without it, but it added another layer of depth, authenticity, and intimacy that wasn’t there before.”
Rick Doblin said of his experiences with MDMA, “The shift is not so far away from normal, so it’s easier for integration. Your ego doesn’t dissolve.”
I used to be suspicious of letting my hope rest on the effects of substances—regardless of legal status. It seemed to me that there was something missing when people claimed to suddenly understand the universe after a night on psychedelics.
Sure, I still have flashbacks to the joy and the insights I experienced that one summer—now more than 20 years ago—when I tripped on LSD nearly every day. But, did it change the trajectory of my life or my personal growth?
Maybe I would be more certain if I had set an intention beyond having a rebellious, good time. Or if I had taken it surrounded by people who cared about my emotional and mental development.
Over the years, I’ve learned that the real hope lies in the context of community created by the sense of connectedness that psychedelics seem to arouse within us. When we use psychedelics with the intention of finding new ways to connect to our surroundings and each other, that’s when the long-term magic happens.
If you’re going to take MDMA, Wininger says to keep the following in mind:
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