As the sun set across the rugged desert mountains, my friend passed me the steaming fresh mug of magic mushrooms. “Adam, drink these”, he said confidently. And therein began the transcendence.
“Follow me”, Shavi* said. “Let’s go and explore the playa!”.
I was in the Negev desert for Israel’s version of the Burning Man – aka “Midburn” – and was about to embark on my first hallucinogenic experience. There was no turning back now. I’d quickly downed the concoction Shavi had made me. If I was going to do it, it wasn’t going to be half-board. It was all in or nothing.
While this may sound like the ramblings of a paranoid freak, a history of personal depression, social anxiety, and a cluster of other psychological dependencies run rampant throughout my family. I’ve always guarded my mental health fiercely, so forgive my trepidation in my approach to this potent ‘shroom.
But something about the environment just beckoned me to do it. The rugged desert terrain – which I have always been in awe of – provided the perfect backdrop for what was promised to be a life-altering few hours.
We crossed the playa as night descended upon this mysterious land, the temperature gradually dropping to a pleasant 16-18 degrees Celsius. My Israeli friends, of course, acted like the fervent afternoon sun had transformed into a ferocious Arctic gale. They had shredded their daytime desert skins of swimming trunks for animal fur carcasses.
Me and Shavi stopped to admire a rock band playing atop a wooden structure constructed in the middle of the desert. Harsh Hebrew accents in tongue, they performed a tribute to Oasis for us below the lightly glazed moon as their backdrop.
I was about 20 minutes into the experience. So far, nothing except the nervousness in my stomach at the unknown imminence of what was to come. Shavi’s carefree nature put me at ease of our surroundings and relaxed me.
We decided it was time for something a little heavier.
Hearing the deep bassline of underground techno emanating from a camp nearby, we proceeded to follow the neon lights as they summoned us in.
Upon entering Shavi immediately noticed two girls he knew from back home. Their spirits were free and their gregarious nature immediately sucked me into the conversation. As we made brief small talk, the sounds of techno began to pummel my eardrums and reverberate wildly inside.
“You feeling anything yet, A?” Shavi turned to ask me.
I paused for a brief second as my desert boots shuffled against the surface. I looked up to the ceiling of the camp’s tent which was illuminated by the neon reflecting from everybody’s night costumes. The cotton roofing suddenly started to suck me towards its interior as the desert’s wind battered it.
A wave of euphoria rushed over my body, starting from my toes and shooting through to my brain. I turned to face Shavi.
“Shavi… can you feel that? Bro, do you feel that? I feel fucking great!”
He laughed heartily and put his hand on my back and said, “You liking it Adam, yeah?! You’re liking it, man?!”
I couldn’t speak. The euphoria was overpowering. I just continued to dance wildly and with a connectedness to everybody in the tent that engulfed my body.
Around 20 minutes later we went outside, two girls intact. Shavi made small talk but I was too immersed into my experience to communicate with them. I simply smiled when they changed to English out of politeness to include me in their conversation, as he explained to them that I was experiencing my first magic mushrooms trip and likely zoned out.
Suddenly, one of the girl’s eyes lit up. The conversation hastened back to Hebrew as she spoke rapidly to Shavi.
He proceeded to put his hand into a plastic bag and stick a handful of mushrooms into her mouth. She gobbled them up so fast it was as if she had just survived a famine. She was now part of our journey.
We continued to tour the camps and make our way back to our original base, right at the end of the Sunrise Kingdom on the end of the playa. I’ll never forget the vividness of the adult circus exhibition, the sensations of the “Heaven & Hell” themed dungeon, and the warmness of connecting to so many souls that night.
While the euphoria was at times overwhelming, the hallucinogenic properties were surprisingly mild. Everything was enhanced; nothing was particularly superficial or absurd.
When we got back to our camp, the euphoria gradually began to subside. A new wave of emotion had entered my mind – one of empathy, sadness, and loneliness. I needed to explore these feelings.
I wandered off across the playa until nobody was around me except only the most distant lights and sounds. I laid back across the hostile, shrubby terrain and made my bed. I looked up to the millions of stars in the midnight sky and called for my lost father.
The stars willfully parted ways; an elongated hand stretched towards my soul and lifted me up to the heavens. Nothing spoke, but I felt it. A tear slid down my cheek. It was the first and only time I’d ever felt my father’s presence since his death 8 years prior.
After 30 minutes of soul searching, I gradually came to life reborn.
The transcendence of the desert that night and my soul are too poignant, invigorating and life-changing to put into words. Just writing about it, I get goosebumps on what was undoubtedly one of the most spectacular moments in my life.
Some of the feelings will remain shrouded in mystery for years to come for me. But some things in life are best left unexplained, and the beauty of the Mexican Magic Mushrooms is one that I’ll take with me to the grave.
*Shavi is an alias name used to protect the privacy individual in this story.
NOTE FROM ADAM: I strongly recommend anybody looking to explore psychedelics first buys James Fadiman’s Explorer’s Guide here. Yes, I get a small commission from this link, but if you’re like me and very nervous about these compounds, this will allow you to experience a safe, therapeutic journey without the unnecessary stress.