How to Trip Without Psychedelics

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How to Trip Without Psychedelics

Tripping without subjecting your body to the sometimes nasty side effects of psychedelics is a very real thing. Observed in traditional techniques of the world’s religions and in the results of scientific enquiry, it is possible to induce multi-sensory hallucinatory states, without having to consume any drugs.


The brain is an amazing thing. Whether it’s the crudely made version in the simplest of life forms, or the complex, hierarchical structures in advanced mammals who have imagined quantum physics—the brain is a common feature of life.

Brains release all kinds of endogenous chemicals, and are affected by many exogenous substances. Brains adapt, learn, and keep bodies functioning, but they are not infallible. This fallibility can be manipulated to produce psychedelic-type experiences, without the presence of any psychoactive substance.


Sensory deprivation is most often achieved using flotation tanks. Flotation tanks are a fully enclosed environment where the floater is suspended in a highly concentrated saline solution at body temperature. The interior air is kept at body temperature also. The dense fluid completely suspends the body, and there is a literal sensation of being unshackled from gravity. Standard practice is for the unit to be completely dark and sound-free. Combined with the body temperature environment, the floater is isolated from any outside stimuli at all.

There is an interesting thing about the brain; when it isn’t receiving stimuli, it will invent it. In the entirely sense-neutral environment of the flotation tank, the brain gets busy filling in the gaps. Have no doubt, the hallucinations experienced in floatation tanks can be very real, and for some, enough to cause anxiety or panic attacks. Many people swear by the insight and utter relaxation experienced when using flotation tanks.

A global subculture of enthusiastic floaters has enjoyed advances in floating technology since the ‘70s. The contemporary flotation tank is a slick, sound-proof, sterile, and totally temperature-controlled pod. You may have the option of watching videos on a dimmed screen, and believers say this technique can help the brain pre-learn difficult skills. The thought behind this being that watching Tiger Woods tee-off a thousand times while in an altered state can enhance skill-acquisition at a fundamental level.

The vintage movie Altered States offers an interesting commentary on sensory deprivation.


White noise, mild sensory deprivation, and a red-tinted world can give visuals worthy of any psilocybin or mescaline experience.

Whereas isolation tanks completely deprive the brain of any stimuli, the ganzfeld effect is induced by stimulating the senses with only neutral stimuli. White noise, even colour (uniform white or preferably red-tinted light) in a still and quietly undisturbed space can induce intense visual and auditory hallucinations, similar to those of a psychedelic trip.

Checking out the original experiment will allow you creative souls to mimic the conditions in your own way. You will see why you might need to adapt a digital interpretation of this analogue experiment. 

The psychonaut makes eye shades by cutting a ping pong ball in half. If a red globe is unavailable, tint the ping pong hemispheres red with a marker. Tune the radio to a monotonal white static. The original experiment had cotton wadding for the fingertips to numb the touch, but this isn’t really necessary. Place the ping pong balls over the eyes, lie back, and breathe steady. Neutral stimuli causes interesting effects.

With only monotones for the eyes and ears, the brain creates stimuli—think psychedelic geometries of post-Euclidean inspiration and silent orchestras woven from the nothing of white noise. When a monotonal noise is heard from one direction for an extended period, the brain fatigues and its “locator” goes offline. To fill the need for stimulation, the brain invents sights and sounds. It is surprising how people who have never tried psychedelics describe very psychedelic experiences when experiencing the ganzfeld effect.


Meditation is practiced in many forms all over the world. The serene Buddha comes to mind when conjuring a mental picture of a meditator. In its broadest sense, meditation can be traditional prayer, quiet time spent in nature, or getting stoned in the zone of one’s favourite RPG. The disconnect from time, space, and hyperfocus are common themes that precede altered states of consciousness.

Binaural beats are a soundscape arrangement of frequencies that match the five states of the brain from gamma to delta. Each frequency has been observed to accompany different phases of brain function. Binaural beats can be custom-selected and listened to on headphones to stimulate beneficial brain frequencies for the task at hand. Gamma waves are associated with creating the unity of conscious perception. Theta waves are associated with the functions of more primal parts of the mammalian brain, like the hippocampus.

One of the primal aural stimulants is the phoneme “Ohm”. Binaural by nature, yet traditionally meditative in origin, hitting that generic, perfectly sustained note—whether it’s via a Tibetan throat singer or a perfectly sustained operatic C minor—the results are the same. A braingasm that offers visions of astounding horizons that can circumvent the need for psychedelics.


The pneuma in magic and the prana in yoga, breath and breath control have been long understood to help achieve altered states of consciousness. Sadhus, yogis, ecstatically spinning sufis, and marathon runners all know that breath can get you high.

One of the top three fuels the body requires to function is oxygen. It is absorbed and exchanged for carbon dioxide in the lungs. The act of breathing can be controlled to manipulate the body and especially the brain's functions. Although there is no need for yoga or marathon running, some kind of physical component is always encouraged. Just for the sake of overall wellness.

To gain a glimpse into the type of psychic states obtainable with breath control, try this simple breathing exercise:

First, sit or lie down; it is easy to pass out when you are not used to the sensations of breath control. Now, just relax; breathe gently. When you are composed, breathe in as deeply as possible. Hold the breath for as long as you can. Breathe the entire lungful of air out through your mouth. Now, hold out for as long as possible before inhaling. Once the lungs are empty, inhale again and hold for as long as you can. Out. Hold. In. Hold. Out. Hold, etc. It takes some getting used to. Grasping for breath is a primeval reflex, and can take some time to overcome. Patience and practice can launch you into a self-generated, reality-challenging merkaba.


We’re all big kids here now. You know this isn’t an endorsement to go out and do anything extreme to your own person. It’s simply a fact that these novel states of being can indeed be attained without psychedelic substances.

Some of the chemicals the brain releases to deal with extremes, good and bad, can be very powerful. Adrenaline can make you the sharpest tool in the shed; endorphins get people to the same places that opiates get others; serotonin, dopamine, and endogenous DMT are the naturally-occurring keys to the proverbial Huxleyan doors.

Flagellants have whipped themselves, and whirling dervishes have spun themselves to ecstasy. Tantric lovers have licked and lunged, withheld, swallowed, and thrust themselves into other states of being, while base-jumpers and parkour freaks have leaped their way to adrenal bliss. Marathon runners and free climbers know what it is like to ride the crest of the chemical frenzy caused by fatigue meeting will.

Assess choices with a meta state of mind; things are starting to get quite crazy in the post-post-Jackass era. Don’t get hurt (too much, lol), or die in the pursuit of existential glimpses that can have real world ramifications.


During tribal ceremonies, initiates were once hoisted and suspended by their pierced flesh or were made to walk on glowing red coals. Similar hypnotic states can be experienced using breathing techniques and manipulation of the input of the senses. Each in their own way can mimic the true substance-induced psychedelic experience. In a delicious irony, when combined with psychedelic substances, these states can be augmented even further. But that’s another story.