Solo Thoughts 15: Solo Thoughts From Solo “Trips”

SOLO | Solo Trips


In this introspective episode of Solo Thoughts, Peter McGraw delves into the life-altering insights gained from a year’s worth of solo psilocybin trips, exploring themes of enjoying life more, connecting deeply, and embracing freedom. He also touches upon the challenges of overthinking and the quest for balance between vigilance and relaxation. Plus, don’t miss the bonus material available exclusively to our Solo community members; signup at https://petermcgraw.org/solo/.

Listen to Episode #217 here


Solo Thoughts 15: Solo Thoughts from Solo “Trips”

Welcome back. I began preparing for this episode during a Hunter S. Thompson-inspired road trip from Denver to Tucson. I brought with me his provocative book, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72. I love the American West, especially how the landscapes like the weather can change so quickly. I drove, read, sat in Hot Springs, hiked gorgeous terrains, saw friends, talked to strangers, slept deeply, and did some psychedelics. It was glorious, but Hunter would have been disappointed with me for being so well-behaved.

Long road trips allow time to think though thinking has never been my problem. I have a couple of friends who I do a monthly call with. They are entrepreneurs with families and they like to point out that I, as a solo, have a lot of time to think or rather overthink. It’s true. I’m an optimizer and tend to be checking out all the angles. The positive side of this is I often have success in life. The downside is that it can give rise to anxiety. Vigilance is good, but too much vigilance, especially in the middle of the night, is not.

Nevertheless, the solo project has given me even more to think about. As you likely know, I occasionally share my thoughts in a Solo thoughts episode where I speak directly to you, the listener. Solo thoughts episodes are much more work and not necessarily better than a typical episode, but occasionally, I’m compelled to do them. In this one, I’ll talk about some insights I’ve had from a year’s worth of psilocybin in trips. Twelve in total. All solo except for one.

If you’re unaware, psilocybin is the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms. Before I get to it, I want to welcome new listeners as a result of the solo book launch. Whether you’re a new listener or old, I’m asking you to help me get the word out about the solo movement. If you buy the book, would you please review it as soon as you can on Goodreads and/or Amazon? Perhaps put in a purchase request at your local library. Rate and review the SOLO podcast wherever you listen. You can also follow the Solo Instagram account @Unapologetically_Unattached.

Tell someone, especially a podcast host or journalist, about the solo movement. Reach out to me if you need some help with that. Invite me to give a talk. I have three singles-related talks that are ready to go. Finally, if you haven’t yet, think about joining the solo community at PeterMcGraw.org/solo. You can find bonus material for various tapings, including one for the episode. Thanks so much. Let’s get started.

Solo Psilocybin Trips

At the risk of hyperbole, my solo psilocybin trips have been life-changing. I’m in no way prescribing this method of change for you. There are many ways to disrupt your conventional thought like meditation, therapy, journaling, and travel, just to name a few. However, since my trips have been feeding previous solo thought episodes, for example, 11, 12, and 13, some listeners have been asking for more information. If you decide to start traveling in your mind as I have, I suggest starting with professional help.

I started with my good friend and shaman, Shane Mauss. Even though I do these trips alone, I do them in a safe environment, and I have a phone a friend available, typically, Shane. I also spent a few years working up to this very ambitious twelve trips in twelve months. It also happens to be the case that magic mushrooms agree with me. How do I approach a trip? In advance, I plan the trip. I pick a particularly clear day and then the first half of the next day. Even still, my choice to go on a journey is often a game-time decision because I want to be well-rested and I want to be in a good mood.

I typically set an intention, something I want to work on. Take the dose and the late morning or early afternoon. I once did an early dose around 9:00 AM. I also like that. That gives me more time to sort of come down from the trip and get to bed in an early hour as I’m usually pretty wiped out by the end of the day. Ideally, I’m in a remote location with access to nature, but I’ve learned to do trips in my apartment or even a hotel room.

Because the visual stimulation associated with a mushroom trip is so compelling, so interesting, and potentially distracting from pursuing thoughtful insights, I will often spend time in a sensory deprivation state, with the blinds down and eye mask on, in my bed, and even under the covers. It’s hard to explain this, but under those conditions in particular, I can sort of focus my thoughts inward and a lot of very interesting things develop as a result of that.

As I’m in this process, I often take notes about my insights, but a major Improvement has been the use of a voice recorder to track my thoughts in real time. It’s interesting. Oftentimes my tone and speed of speaking are different, slower, but my thinking is often sharp and incisive, at least to me. As I look back on my trips, there have been three classes of insights that I’ve had. The first is to enjoy life more. The second is to focus on social connections. The third is freedom. Some of these themes may seem familiar from conversations that I’ve had on the podcast and solo thoughts episodes. I don’t suggest it’s right for you. They’re just right for me at this stage of my life.

Enjoy Life More

SOLO | Solo Trips
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

Some of these insights will feel like platitudes. That’s the thing about mushroom trips. The insight may not be profound, but they feel profound, and they often help lock in a new set of behaviors. The first class of insight is to enjoy life more. Sometimes your life changes and no one tells you that it has. You keep operating on that old set of behaviors, those old perspectives that served you well before but may not serve you well now. I’ve spent my entire life delaying gratification in search of financial security and job security. I’m good at delaying gratification. It’s one of my superpowers.

I’ve talked about it in a previous solo thoughts episode. Pete meets Peter about what a good little boy I can be. I can grind my bones into dust on a project. This was recently demonstrated by the speed and intensity with which I wrote the solo book. Despite keeping my health a priority, I’m often exhausted by the intensity of my schedule. I rarely take time off and when I try to, it’s difficult for me to take a break. It has been such a habit that when I’m not working, I feel like I’m falling behind. A common feeling in the grind of academic publishing.

Don’t get me wrong. I like my work. I’m often too compelled to do it, but given I have been successful in achieving tenure and thus some job and financial security, I no longer need to behave this way in order to survive. What a wonderful problem to have. Most people never get a chance to step back from the grind. Their security is too tenuous and the responsibilities are too big. I want to create more space for other things including a more enjoyable life. So far, I’ve largely failed in my efforts to do so. Falling back into my produce, produce, produce mentality. Nevertheless, this Insight is important to me.

One area in which I have been successful and enjoying life more is an insight that I’ve had about doing it in small doses within a typical day. I call it creating an oasis. This may happen with a date, friends, or even solo on my own. An oasis is a block of maybe 2 to 4 hours where I seek to do something enjoyable and phone-free. Maybe ordering good food and watching a sunset or sitting in a sauna and doing a cold plunge or going on a hike alone or with a friend and a companying great conversation. It’s small but it’s a start. Maybe if I’m lucky and work hard enough, I will find a way to take a whole day off or a weekend or just maybe, a whole week. What a strange problem to have. I recognize that.

A soul thoughts episode popped out of this overarching idea. One that frames work and play not as opposites, but rather as complements. This is my kind of solution. You may be familiar with it in the Dancing with Bulls solo thoughts episode, where I used the matador and bull as a metaphor. Of course, not endorsing actual bullfighting in any way. As you know, life can be a real snooze fest or stress fest. Leaving people feeling uninspired or overwhelmed by the daily grind.

The idea in the episode was to see the challenges in the world and find ways to play with them through your own prowess and panache, through your own skill and style, which can enliven a boring situation or turn a stressful one into a flow-worthy challenge. In some, the insight to enjoy life more is a clear one, but has not yet taken hold, at least fully for me. I am seeking to be more of a matador and dance with this idea. I asked you, how are you seeking ways to enjoy your life just a little more, small or big?

Focus On Social Connections

The second insite connection shows up in nearly every trip I have. Probably because it’s such a common experience associated with psilocybin. It’s very easy to have this feeling of connection to everything, to be part of a vast universe, perhaps even across time. It’s hard to explain. It’s mostly a feeling. I’ll give you an example. Toward the end of a trip, I’ll often start to get my space in order. I’ll be a little bit energetic and in this mindset of preparing to enter reality again. I’ll tidy up, even if it’s just my clothes, bags, and toiletries while I’m on the road.

As part of that tidying-up process, I’ll often talk to various inanimate objects. T, thanking them for their help. Even the things that I’m going to dispose of get a “thanks for your service” before it goes into the trash. I know that sounds weird, but I become very appreciative of these sorts of tools that I have, my laptop, clothing, sneakers, and bags. They make my life better and I want to thank them.

Another example of this feeling of connection is that I often feel very connected to nature, the plants, trees, and even rocks, and I will have conversations with them too. Don’t worry. These are one-way conversations. I have yet to get a response from a rock. Oftentimes, when I’m out in nature, I’ll be drawn to a particular tree and spend time with it, the Joshua Tree. I have a tree friend who I visit when I’m out there, whether I’m tripping or not, just to check in and say hello.

SOLO | Solo Trips
Solo: Building a Remarkable Life of Your Own

In any case, one thing that is becoming very clear to me is how much we’re on our phones, social media, and other consumption activities that can get in the way of personal connections. In the aftermath of a trip, I am often highly motivated to make deeper social connections. I like to say instead of a text, make a call. Instead of a call, set a meeting. I’ll set up one-on-one meetings. Perhaps the sauna meeting with a friend for private intimate conversation.

One element about connections caused me to tape a solo thoughts episode. One that I called Do you have a Watcher? In it, I talked about my friend Darwin who’s often up at night while I’m asleep and is just a phone call away in case of an emergency. That insight, that connection has helped me with my anxiety and ruminations in the middle of the night. As you know, going solo is not about being alone, though solitude is important, but it’s important to be connected more broadly than just a life partner. I ask you with this in mind. What are you doing to foster more In-person connections in your life?


The third and final class of insight and the biggest I call freedom. I spent my entire life pursuing freedom. In particular, trying to find financial security and job security. More importantly, lately, I’ve been exploring how to find freedom in my mind by realizing that so much of what seems so important is just made up in the first place. This is something I talk about in the solo book. What is often good for society is not good for the individual. The world wants you to be very well-behaved in a very narrow way.

A particular story from a trip is relevant here. I had this insight about how well I’m doing across five dimensions, physically, socially, intellectually, spiritually or emotionally, and financially. Again, having obtained some security in my life. I was in this sensory-deprived state. I had put myself into the bathroom of this hotel that I was in. The lights were off and I was sitting underneath the shower with warm water running over me blocking out all the other sound and creating this very pleasant experience

I had this insight that because I realized the ways that the world was trying to get me to behave and that I was doing well in these dimensions, I was able to do the unthinkable. Since I was no longer in survival mode, I could start to bend or break these rules, and I could stand up to society’s “punishments,” and then I could become more free.

In fact, it overcame me as this sort of oh shit moment where I recognized that because I was able to do this and so few people can, it would be a waste of the hard work and perspective-taking that I had engaged in to not do it. That felt profound. Again, still a work in progress. The world pulls you back in lots and lots of ways, but I do feel a bit more free.

Related to this idea of seeking freedom, I taped a solo thoughts episode called Exploring Goals Wands Auditions and a Call to Surrender, where I share my thoughts on trying to make these changes in my life and work. I discussed the drawbacks of goal setting, and the negative associations with constant wanting, and explored the concept of surrendering to the universe rather than exerting extreme effort to make the universe bend a tiny bit to my will. In particular, I talked about how I am done auditioning except in very rare circumstances.

As Albert Camus said in The Rebel, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that you’re very existence is an act of rebellion.” I ask you this, how are you pursuing freedom in your life or your mind? There’s one last Insight that’s adjacent to this notion of freedom. It was about how the weather, money, and politics are too often to distraction from the important things in life. I taped some bonus material about it and you can find that as part of the solo community which you can sign up for at PeterMcGraw.org/solo.

One last thing, something that I have noticed as part of these trips is that I like the person that I am while I’m tripping. I think clearly, I feel confident, and I have this very strong compassionate streak. Clear, confident, compassionate. I’ve talked previously about my transition from Pete to Peter. I’ve taken to calling this sort of trippy version, this clear, confident, compassionate version of me, Peter Plus. That’s not a good name. I know that and I’d welcome alternative suggestions. One thing that is very clear is that I want to bring him into the world more often, ideally permanently. Why not? He’s already inside of me.

I’m finishing this episode back in Bogota as the book launch is slowing down and I’m starting to think about what I want to focus on next. One thing that is capturing my attention is a secret project. One that I hope I can tell you about soon. It’s something that is bigger than anything I’ve ever done before. Frankly, I’m not sure that’ll ever happen but I’m going to try. I’m going to need Peter Plus to make it happen. Thanks for listening. Let me know what you think. Cheers.


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