A PEACEFUL FLATNESS

Fiona Webster

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Daniel Siebert




My first two journeys with Salvia were on 9/9/99 - a late summer evening. I had prepared myself by eating a light meal, taking a nap, and then performing a simple ritual of magical cleansing. I had read about the importance of having few distractions, so I set myself up -in a quiet room (in my house in Maryland), with the shade drawn and just one candle for light. I put on headphones and soft music, and a black velvet band around my eyes to keep out any incidental light. I meditated for about 30 minutes in a comfortable armchair, a place I had used before for working in altered states of consciousness. I wanted to use the trip (if anything happened) to try to get through a block in my writing work, so I meditated on the images associated with my work.

Then I told my sitter (in another room) I was starting the experience, and inhaled one hit of Daniel Siebert's "standard" enhanced leaf. I put the pipe out of reach, drew down the eye shade, and made myself comfortable, with my feet up.

In about 20 seconds, the trip started with the sound of my own voice in my head, reassuring someone (there was no one else in the room) in a low voice, nearly a whisper, that there was nothing to worry about, that everything was under control. This voice seemed to be coming from the upper left-hand quadrant of my visual field.

I observed a very flat, two-dimensional pattern starting in the upper left-hand corner and quickly progressing to cover my whole visual field, as if my face were pressed very close up against a flat screen. At first it was a simple geometrical display of black lines forming a tile pattern with diamond-shaped tiles, about 20 tiles across and 20 tiles high. I was a bit frustrated that I couldn't see any "further" than that, but it was all happening so quickly, I was fascinated and didn't have time to object. The tiles filled up with colors, each diamond with a dusty peach-colored section and a smaller section that was like part of a palm frond in neon green. Before I could focus on this pattern, though, it changed into humorous cartoon figures of stocky men in suits--all interlocked like an M. C. Escher tile design. They had white shirts on. The peach areas had become the wide pants they were wearing, and the neon green areas turned into each man's tie, a wide tie sporting a gaudy palm-frond pattern. They reminded me of a cartoon from the 1940s, because the pants were cuffed and the men were wearing peach-colored fedora hats. The black lines remained, separating one man from another. The men began moving rapidly from left to right.

During this period, I was annoyed by the blindfold and the headphones, and I pulled them off and dropped them on the floor nearby. I had a strong drive to open my eyes. Opening my eyes didn't change the nature of the visuals I was seeing, but immediately made me feel calmer. I would estimate that the above visual events took place in a matter of seconds.

I was barely adjusted to watching the men scroll across my "screen" from left to right when a stiff cool wind starting blowing on me--again from the upper left-hand corner of this flat-screen "place" I was in--and I could feel my long hair blowing out behind me. The wind developed two appendages that felt like large hands made out of wind: it grasped my upper arms very tightly with these "hands" and propelled me backwards at high speed. The sensation of traveling backwards in the hands, even in the embracing arms (I felt safe) of this invisible "wind god" was so exciting! My hair was blowing all about--I could feel it, but couldn't see anything but darkness--and I was so thrilled I would've cried out "Wheeee!" if I could've figured out how to speak.

Then PLOP...I landed gently on the earth. The wind was gone. I found myself in a desert, at night. I was sitting behind a low scrubby bush, like mesquite or juniper, looking through the bush at three men who were gathered around a small fire on the ground. I was hiding, actually, so the men couldn't see me. I saw by the firelight that their faces were dark brown and deeply lined, and their features were like those of Indians in southern Mexico. I have only been to southern Mexico once in my life, about 30 years ago. I was surprised to be there, surprised to be able to guess where I was from the mountains in the distance and the faces and clothing of the three men. I was also a bit disappointed: I had wanted to get some help with my writing work, and this scene had nothing to do with my writing work. I thought, "Oh darn--I've made up some sort of generic Salvia fantasy as a result of reading about how the plant was originally used by the Mazatec Indians near Oaxaca." I was convinced, at that point, that my unconscious had invented the whole scene. I felt a little ridiculous.

Then I became aware of a looming shadow off in the far left-hand corner of this scene. I could just barely perceive the actual room I was sitting in, like a dim double-image beneath the desert/campfire/Indians scene. I identified that the shadow was an actual shadow, of a piece of furniture in my actual house--a large and impressive shadow because I had a candle down on the floor.

"So far, not much," I thought.

But then I got a creepy sensation, as of prickles going up my spine. The shadow began to speak. I was immediately convinced that there was a real, external being speaking from that shadow, and that I *was* in southern Mexico, where this being had chosen to transport me--backwards (quite literally in a southwest direction, as I figured out afterwards) at high speed. I was a bit frightened, but also thrilled.

The Shadow spoke--but not exactly in words--more like in my head in wordless thoughts. I could perceive, though, that it had a deep masculine voice, such as would be produced by a very large, very tall man standing about 15 feet away from me. Shadow: "I am Salvia."

Me: "Why are you in the form of a shadow in my house in Maryland?"

Salvia: "That is how you choose to perceive me. We are not in Maryland. You are here with me."

Me: "Uhh...now what?"

Salvia: [deep sigh, as if disappointed with me] "You are supposed to ask a boon of me."

I was thinking, at this point, "Hey! This is like an Arabian Nights tale were you open a bottle, and a big serious muscular genie comes out of the bottle and says, 'Why did you call me?'" It struck me that I'd never realized how *spooky* that genie could be. But I enjoy being spooked, so that wasn't a problem at all.

Me: "Everything is so empty here, so flat. I can't think of what to ask. And I'm not in a very good mood--there's a sad place inside of me. So I feel frozen."

Salvia: "Pay no attention to your mood. That sad place is like a bruise on a fruit, where the rest of the fruit is just fine. But you are not the fruit. The fruit is only part of you, your emotional self. This is not the realm of your emotional self. This is an air-energy realm--the realm of higher thought, higher consciousness. [pause] So what in *this* realm would you like my help with?"

I still couldn't think of anything. The experience faded, the objects in the room in my house becoming increasingly vivid as the desert and campfire scene became increasingly "thin," like a TV signal slowly drifting away. My last awareness of the Salvia presence was that he was mildly annoyed with me for being just another silly first-time traveler with no idea of what was going on.

About 25 minutes had elapsed. It all seemed to happen so fast, I was surprised it had been that long. I was left with a feeling of mental tranquility, despite having disappointed Salvia. I had a lingering sense of the expansive flatness of the Mexican desert, the quiet night with zillions of stars overhead, the mountains far in the distance. I thought of my state of mind as "peaceful flatness."

At that point I checked in with my sitter, told him I was OK, and sat for about half an hour more thinking about what had happened. I decided I wanted to give it another try, that I didn't want to leave Salvia thinking of me as a fool.

For the second trip, I didn't bother with the headphones and blindfold. Again I took one hit, and set the pipe aside."

The opening visual hallucinations were similar, especially the black lines forming a tile pattern that became cartoon figures. The colors and the figures were different, but they still had an archaic quality, like old-timey newspaper comic strips. Then again I felt the wind and the whooshing backward, although not so fast and abrupt as the first time. It seemed somehow "easier" to get where I was going. Then again I was sitting on the desert floor, behind a bush, looking at three Mexican Indians around a fire. I tried to see what they were doing, if they had a pipe or anything, but they seemed to just be sitting there, or maybe talking quietly.

Salvia appeared again as a huge dark shadow, this time right in front of me. The campfire scene disappeared, as did the room in my house. Instead of being on the desert floor, I found myself sitting on a featureless gray plane, stretching out in all directions to infinity. I couldn't really *see* this plane, I just knew it was there. I was very aware of its precise geometrical flatness, as if I were sitting inside of a mathematical diagram. My body felt a bit odd--so three-dimensional and fleshy compared to the infinite flat plane. Again I could feel my sad mood like a spot on a piece of fruit, below me somewhere, below the plane. I remembered what Salvia had told me, and consciously blocked it out.

Salvia: "This is Lesson One. You have communicated to me that you need help in your writing. What you need is a place of reassurance, of peace--a tranquil place from which to begin your work--perhaps a touchstone to return to when you get anxious. This is that place. Each time you try to work you are over stimulated, crowded with imagery, assaulted by emotions and ideas. This is the place where you will go to get away from all those confusing thoughts and feelings."

Me: "Is it like [-----]?" (Here I referred to a passage in a book by Dorothea Brande, of how a writer should begin by learning how to concentrate.)

Salvia: "Yes. It is exactly like that. This is all you need for now. This is all you should try to learn in Lesson One. You didn't know what you needed, so I appear to you as a teacher. Now take this lesson seriously, and use it. Remember the flatness, the featureless expanse, the empty gray plane. And the desert floor with stars overhead."

And that was the end of the second trip. Again, it lasted about 25 minutes, but seemed much shorter than that.

I continued to feel tranquil and deliberate all the following day. I was grateful for the boon Salvia had given me.

I should emphasize, in conclusion, that I've never had a "trip" like this before. I have done some shamanic journeying without the assistance of drugs, but I have only hallucinated before a couple of times in my life, without planning for it to happen. I have used marijuana--and just twice, psilocybe mushrooms--but I have never taken acid, peyote, or any other such substances. This was a very unusual and dramatic experience for me! I am most impressed with Salvia.