At the age of 22 I properly discovered trance music, and shortly after, I discovered MDMA.
Anyone who has tried MDMA will know what an intensely moving experience it can be. Especially the first time. Your senses are heightened as your brain dumps huge waves of serotonin into receptor sites. This leads to a feeling of euphoria, smiles galore, and funky visual disturbances as colours become unbelievably vivid. Sounds pulse through you as if you are the music. Faces become beautiful beyond words. Life, for a few hours, is CRAZY good. And then it’s bad. There’s always a payoff isn’t there?
MDMA, unlike cocaine (which makes me annoying, more annoying than usual), resonated with me, because it allowed me to open up, at a time when I didn’t find opening up so easy. Look at me go now, can’t stop me!
It’s called the ‘Love drug’ for good reason. I temporarily became close friends with complete strangers, poured my heart out, encouraged them do the same, and hugged. So. Much. Hugging. I adore hugs (Did I mention I’m single?). Some people don’t get this result, they become introverted and want to be left alone when they take it. For me, I was the complete opposite. My friends could never find me, because invariably I was off in a corner having D&Ms with a complete stranger. And I loved that.
My ‘fling’ with MDMA lasted about 4 years, and fortunately was always under my control. I only really took it when I was going to a ‘proper’ rave. Eventually though, like a fizzling relationship, the spark was gone, and like indoor climbing, it became just another footnote in the history of things I’ve done with my time. I took it again a few years back and all I remember is how lousy I felt the next day.
I can’t see hard drugs featuring in my life anymore. The way I treat my body, and my mind, these days is in complete contrast to how I used to. Through my teens and most of my 20s I attacked my body like it was the enemy, pumping junk food and alcohol into it with reckless, naughty abandon. We’re told we shouldn’t have regrets, but I do have regrets about that. During some of my most formative, youthful years I was ruthlessly deadening my senses, in the search of fun. Don’t get me wrong, I DEFINITELY had fun, but I was never really that happy either. Nowadays I get up early on Saturday mornings to buy organic vegetables from the farmer’s market. It’s not that fun. I am, however, rather happy. Go figure.
I enjoyed the amped up dancing in those clubs, the visuals, the euphoria, but it was the easy connection to others that I really craved.
News just in. Drugs aren’t the answer, kids. So what is?
And that, my friends, is what they call a segue [seg-way]
This post isn’t about drugs, or trance music, my twenties, or cheap organic cabbage. It’s about the chocolate-fuelled ‘rave’ I attended last Saturday night, which had a profound effect on me.
A few weeks back, a friend of mine, let’s call her Mary (she’s not called Mary), suggested over breakfast (yes, breakfast, no, we hadn’t just slept together) that I would enjoy something called ‘ecstatic dance’. A quick Google and Youtube video later, I wasn’t convinced. It looked like a bunch of idiots acting like morons.
So we booked two tickets.
It was called ‘The Deepening’.
“The Deepening’ promised a Cacao Ceremony with Ecstatic Dancing to follow. As it turned out, it was exactly both of things, and so much more. Here’s what went down..
Instructed to wear white clothing, I had selected the only white t-shirt in my closet which hasn’t been ruined by sunscreen. I wore blue jeans. I own white jeans but I couldn’t bring myself to wear them on the bus through the city. Which is a problem I recognise in myself. That fear. WTF does it matter if I wear an all-white outfit in public?
We were ‘smudged’ upon arrival. From what I understood, ‘smudging’ is when a very smiley, hippy chick waves a smoking stick around your entire body, to cleanse you of negative demons. Or something like that. I like to think I’m fairly open-minded, but I realised at this point, that the evening was going to be odd, very odd, and likely way outside my comfort zone. Excellent. I started to feel nervous, anxious even. I thought that maybe there was something in that ‘smudge’. There wasn’t. It was ALL me. Me and my stupid monkey brain.
Once everyone had arrived, the 12 or so participants sat on cushions in a circle facing each other. Upon instruction, we then spent 3 or 4 minutes silently looking at each other. It felt like an hour. We were asked to pause on faces, those faces were sometimes smiling, sometimes staring blankly, sometimes desperately trying to avoid eye contact with anyone. I was in the latter camp, and deeply, deeply uncomfortable.
Once the staring ceased, we were invited to talk about how we were feeling, to ask questions of each other, to share our expectations and thoughts. I clammed up. Which is rare for me. What I did do was crack a joke or two. Which is common for me. Like a lot of Brits, I use humour to deflect when I’m uncomfortable. Come on a date with me and you’ll soon realise this. Fortunately I wasn’t alone, most of the group appeared to be struggling with similar ‘clamminess’, although mostly in their palms, which I was being made to hold. The conversation was disjointed and unenjoyable. I started to think the night was going to be a dud.
Next up, find a partner, and spend a few minutes stood facing them, looking into their eyes, again, silently.
I’ve just struggled to look briefly at a group of people in a circle. Now I’ve got to stare at one person, right in front of my face, for a few minutes? To make matters worse I had paired up with ‘Mary’. I would have preferred the anonymity of a stranger.
I’ve known ‘Mary’ for over two years. We were flatmates for 6 months when I first moved to Bondi, when we catch up I never know what’s going to come out of her mouth, what she’s been up to, what she is planning on doing next. She’s awesome. We talk openly about life and wotnot, I think we know each other fairly well. Looking her in the eyes should have been easy.
It was not.
NOT AT ALL.
I felt hot, we were instructed to focus on the other person, not on ourselves, but my brain was too busy talking nonsense to itself. After a while I managed to get it under control and finally focused purely on her face. I don’t remember much other than thinking she looked beautiful, how I preferred looking into her left eye than her right, how calm she appeared, and how utterly non-calm I was probably looking. I was annoyed with myself for feeling uncomfortable undertaking this simple exercise.
Then something strange happened. The hotness turned to warmth, and I had this sensation of incredible care for this person stood in front of me. I felt it in my gut, not my head. At that moment, if someone had come in and tried to abduct her, they stood absolutely no chance of succeeding. Looking back now, I think it was love. Not gushy, romantic love. Just, love.
I only just processed that. It’s good this writing lark.
I worry about the ever-increasing impact of technology in our world. Is the silence being drowned out by noise and distraction? What important moments are we missing in our lives because we’re too busy looking elsewhere? The ‘Deepening’ placed an emotional toll on me, but on Sunday I rushed about catching up with friends, playing golf, looking at my crap on my phone, doing chores. I didn’t process any of it.
On Monday, I woke up and something was not right. Something was stopping me from going to work. So I took the day off and spent the day, on my own, listening to music, walking, contemplating, and then writing, for hours.
At this point I would like to recommend that you try the exercise I explained a few paragraphs above. Find a close friend or partner who won’t judge you for suggesting it and do this: Sit or stand opposite each other and spend 3 minutes looking into their eyes, observing, not speaking. And then follow it up, as we did, by taking it in turns to talk for one minute about what you want to improve in your life. Whilst you talk, the other person just sits opposite, observes, listens and absolutely must not say a word. After that, have a chat about your experience.
It is incredibly powerful.
In the noisy world in which we live, where people can barely wait for the other person to stop talking so they can chime in with their ‘turn’, or switch off mid-sentence to check their phone, the power of a single, solitary minute to hear, and to be heard, is refreshing AF.
I hear you, “Where’s the friggin’ chocolate, Chris? You promised us chocolate!”. I did plan to tell the whole tale in this ‘edition’, chocolate and all, but, well, I want to go to bed.
‘Chocolate Coated Rave’ just became a 2-parter.
To be continued…. Part two here