“Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities—the political, the religious, the educational authorities—who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing—forming in our minds—their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness, chaotic, confused vulnerability to inform yourself.”
― Timothy Leary
I have recently experienced creativity in a different way. It felt like a warm rush, from the top of my head travelling through my body, making my legs feel weak and numb. My eyes teared up. My hands were shaking and I was very emotional. I woke up one morning and before I had a chance to grab a cup of coffee, I felt this unfamiliar and overwhelming sensation, which lasted only a few seconds. It was three years ago and it had never happened to me like that before. I felt stunned at that powerful experience.
With that rush, came the idea for a particular project. The weird thing was, the idea had been born ready. I did not need any brainstorming, I did not need reassurance or validation. It was mine, although it felt like it came from outside of myself. It was odd. I had been trying for so long to develop ideas and for some reason I could not get any of my own personal projects completed. I had been on a search to find my place in the industry, shooting a lot of projects for everybody else but myself. Only now, after a lot of self exploring, I understand that the fears that were stopping me from creating, weren’t even recognised by me. But those fears were there. Imprinted in my unconscious mind, obscured by my repressed traumas. Catalysing the anxiety that I didn’t even know I suffered from.
I noticed that the more I tried to think of my problems, the more entangled in them I became. It was clear to me that I needed a change in the way I perceived the world and myself. I needed to accept my own past, my journey and my flaws. I needed to start building a new reality for myself. I wanted to minimise chaos or rather find beauty in it.
I realised that if such creative experience happened once, I could try and make it happen again. I did not know how to start, how to make the conditions perfect for it to happen a second time. I craved that creative rush. I figured that it was there in my brain somewhere, it was part of me. I just needed to access it.
I was hoping for a re-wiring of my brain, and decided it was time to try something different. For many years I thought about trying Ayahuasca (or Santo Daime), which is originally an ancient medicine – but also a religious/ spiritual tradition that consists in drinking a brew made from a plant and a root. I finally participated in a ritual back home in BraziI, and felt ready to try Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT.
Before I tried it, I researched a lot because, well, I was terrified. I looked up all of the scientists and psychotherapists back in the sixties – some of them fairly prominent professors at Harvard – who were exploring the effects on the mind by experimenting with psilocybin, a substance found in mushrooms. Some of them are still alive and a couple of them have blogs. Although they were professors, scientists and doctors, some of them seem to be pretty spiritualised today – believing that our soul is an eternal, unlimited and powerful thing. They are just people after all, human beings before any master’s degrees. I have read so many accounts of people’s experiences with DMT, all of them so intricate, like dreams or nightmares even. Despite the complexity of those trips, the message seem to be always the same to me: it felt like it was people’s unconscious minds talking to them. It made me scared to explore my own mind, but I was curious. I still am.
I am curious to know what our brains are really made of. Is it just a major organ or is there a soul attached to it?
I feel like we will never fully understand this complex machine because, first of all, our rational thoughts come from something like 5% of our brain mass, our frontal cortex. So over 95% of our brain activity is beyond our conscious awareness. Forgive me if this percentage is not completely accurate; I tried to check all my facts, but as you are aware, we know very little about the brain. It is a ridiculous percentage like that. The brain possess a massive unknown area, with lots of glands and neurons making up to 10 thousand electro-chemical connections each. Really roughly compared to a computer with a 1 trillion bit per second processor. Man, our brain is BUSY.
So I can only write here from my own personal experience – this massive unknown area of the brain being a major drive to explore my own further.
I am interested in the unknown: I want to dive into my unconscious mind and unlock my ability to see things from a different perspective. I want to try and figure out my very existence, identify my pure desires and my raw emotions. Do my brain waves connect to other people’s brain waves? Does it make me love them? Does it make me hate them?
The more I thought about it, the more it fascinated me. The poetic and unproven fact that we get a rush of DMT when we are born and another one when we die. The fact that, this molecule, is inside of nearly all animals and plants, including us humans. The substance is there but we can’t feel its effects, due to an enzyme we have in our gut that suppresses it. Some researchers believe it is produced by the pineal gland, although there is no concrete proof of that either. There is no proof of so many things, that is what makes this substance so mysterious; perhaps because those early studies were shut down, those professors were censored and drugs became a problem around the globe.
Eventually I stopped reading about DMT, because there are obviously a lot of idiots out there talking about it. I tried to empty my head of all theories and let my mind create my own. And I did what any curious person would do: I finally tried it.
My unconscious blew my mind.
I have to say the very short experience was beautiful. I saw hundreds of shapes and colours that I didn’t know existed – I just wanted to be able to photograph like that. I don’t think the pretty things I saw could be reproduced using the technology that we have now. The patterns seemed incredibly organic, much more evolved: my rational understanding of what divine perfection must be like. It was the most insightful experience I could have hoped for. I suffer from 24/7 tinnitus and hearing loss in both ears, but I could hear detail into every sound. The trip itself was insightful, yet the aftermath, what it did to me in the coming months and even a couple of years later, it was incredible.
I felt an overwhelming feeling of love for myself, for all creatures. Love for Nature. Way more than before. An understanding of where I come from, why I behave in the way I do.
A calming feeling of familiarity in all of those places that I travelled to. Some other “energies” communicating with me, making me understand that I was one of them. There is no language, no race, we are all the same in this other dimension, if I can call it that. Over there, we are all pure at our core.
I think what stops us as a race is the fear we have of the mysteries of life. We try to study everything and we don’t use our instinct anymore. We crave bureaucracy and we forget to connect with our soul. We get entangled into the harsh reality of our day to day. We look for answers in religion or outside of ourselves. We want “they” to prove to us where life and the universe come from – so we have something to believe in, so we can be reassured of our skeptical or our extreme beliefs. To validate our human Ego. But we forget that perhaps our most intimate moments, the ones that make us understand who we really are, are right there inside of us, just waiting for us to open up our heads and strip ourselves off our judgements and our gadgets.
One thing is for sure: there is something else out there, something worth exploring, and it seems to be inside of us. I am ready now to give meditation a proper go, because I want to achieve that state of mind without the help of the substance. I know there is a world inside of me, like something in my brain was unlocked.
I do not want to sound like I know it all – three years later… I’m still working on that personal project and I am far from completing it. I haven’t even shown anyone yet apart from very close friends. I still struggle with a lot of things, my anxiety included. I get frustrated by injustice – I deplore it more than anything. I am still the same flawed person but I am trying to put in practice the things that I have learn from listening to my unconscious. Taking life one challenge at a time, one day at a time. When everything feels too much, I still fall into a dark place. But then I photograph. My photography is as dark as the feelings I experience, and I love that about it.
Right now my creativity seems to be unleashed, or better, I am no longer scared of creating and speaking my mind through the images I make. I am insightful of my life and my past, I don’t know if it was the DMT that helped, perhaps that was just part of an ongoing journey.
I hope the experience I share here will help others realise that we are powerful. The power of healing the soul is inside every one of us. As is the ability of solving our problems and handling the beautiful tragedy of life. It is about how we handle it. We are all going to die, and I hope that when I do, my body will feel the release that incredible substance. I hope that for you too.