“Let’s spend a few minutes in silence to set an intention.” A prayer, sent out in faith, a spiritual communique.
We broke off pieces, and distributed them amongst ourselves. Eating first, then drinking. Together in silence.
On a bench, overlooking a lake, surrounded by trees and birdsong, we ate our magic mushrooms.
The words I’ve heard so many times on a Sunday came back to me, and I had to say them aloud:
“This is Christ’s body, broken for you; the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.” The Eucharist is both a holy sacrament, and the most commonplace of all rituals. And somehow, it seemed particularly apt.
It’s no secret that human beings crave community, and that oneness and otherness are both paradoxical and intrinsic to relationship: relationship to self, to others, to the world, to God. It’s our human need to be “in communion.” Experiencing community is exactly what love feels like. Christianity’s metaphor for this essential relationship is Trinity. The way we say it usually sounds like “Father, Son, Holy Spirit,” but there are plenty of other ways to describe the relationship-dynamic of God’s diversity and unity: God the maker, God the companion, and God the guide; God of mind, God of matter, God of metaphysics. Choose your own metaphor, and you will find a relationship dynamic that feels like wholeness.
For me, the teachings of Jesus are about the kingdom of heaven. This kingdom is one where everyone experiences community. In our world, there is always a door. Some people walk through. But it always seems like there is a bouncer to make sure only the right ones walk through, or to administer a viability test: wealth, class, culture, color, creed. The work of love is to invite the bouncer in, and then make that doorway wider and wider, until there is no difference between inside and outside. As human beings, we may have to do that work one-by-one, like when Jesus opened the eyes of a blind man, widening his bodily, sensory experience. I try to do this when I share companionship, vulnerability, intimacy with someone close to me. I may also do this work in a group or a movement, maybe with artists creating work that shares message and meaning; Jesus did it by feeding two fish and five pieces of bread to five thousand people, making room for all in spite of a perceived shortage of resources. And yes, we can do this work universally, when we share a transcendent experience across time and space, breaking a symbolic piece of food and sharing it with people sitting right next to us, and all of those who have participated in the same ritual through generations and across nations and lands.
The work of love is to widen the doorways.
I began to feel exactly nothing from the magic mushrooms. Nonetheless, a discussion began with my two companions, both experienced gurus in the way of psychedelic experimentation. About nature. About companionship. About medicine. About intention.
One of my life’s central questions is: how can I widen the doorway of community? It’s what I seek to do in my spiritual practice, in my relationships, in my creative contributions, and in my lifestyle. I love inviting strangers to dinner. Asking questions — implicit or explicit — through my work. Introducing friends who have different perspectives to each other. Diving into new experiences, and facilitating new experiences for other people. Which sometimes takes a nudge or two.
On this day, it was my turn for the new experience, and by faith, I had set out on the journey with two people I trusted to take me there. Hours passed. Conversations continued. Different perspectives were voiced. While my companions felt “the flow,” I persisted in my ordinary cerebral and sensory perception, facilitating but not entirely joining in this community I hoped to create.
The mushrooms had about as much effect on me as a stiff drink of cold water.
It doesn’t take much for faith to turn to doubt, hope to despair.
Is there nothing out there?
For me, embrace the spiritual and mystical experiences of others is important — even if I don’t understand them. To me, knocking down the doorways and bursting through the gates makes me feel alive. To me, doubt is essential but also a dreaded pit. Was I immune to this transcendent experience that everyone had told me would alter my perceptions?
All day I was stuck in the space that often blocks my own craving for community. Here, in the world of self-judgement and doubt.
Am I the only one who manages to get this wrong? Did I fail? Did I disappoint? Did I miss the connection?
I have felt the same way in church, after taking communion with the rest of the Body of Christ:
I’m not here. I don’t feel connected. I can appreciate this on an intellectual level, but not quite a spiritual — or even a physical — level.
This is where I struggle in my quest for community. How can I widen the doorway when I feel locked out myself? Maybe even because of myself?
As a Christian, I have one path back: the ritual. Some see it as forced and uninspired, but it’s what I love about the weekly Eucharist. It’s the difference between my endless chipping away at the doorway, and Jesus’ complete destruction of the walls surrounding the doors. No matter how I respond, if I respond, if I “feel it” or not, it’s there: Christ’s body, Christ’s blood. It returns again and again in the ritual of the Eucharist, an open hand that is always held out for me. A hand that can usher me into community, beyond the doorway that I build myself.
Will there ever be any magic for me in mushrooms? Or even in the Eucharist? In faith? Will I ever be able to knock down my own invisible doorways?
But taking a hand, or offering a hand,participating in community, all of these are steps I should take anyway.
Did I mention cats make for great community?