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How to Surrender in a Psychedelic Experience

Have you ever gone tubing in a lazy river? Or white water rafting in a fast-flowing stream? They can both be quite joyful experiences when you allow yourself to be taken by the water and go wherever it flows. This can’t be done though, if you’re gripping onto the bank of the river for dear life. 

Allowing yourself to surrender to the flow of where a psychedelic journey’s taking you can sometimes be quite similar. “What we resist persists. Let it go, let it flow”, a wise woman once told me.

This rhyme plays in my head when I think about surrender, along with a visual of myself releasing my grips from the bank of the river. 

Both in our daily lives and in a psychedelic experience, ‘letting go’ and ‘letting flow’ help to release the weights we so often carry without even realizing it, allowing us to travel lightly and in flow with the river of life.  

Inspired by an episode of the Psychedelic Passage podcast, today’s article will dive into what exactly it means to surrender in a psychedelic experience.

Why is there resistance in the first place? What are some practical ways to strengthen your ability to fully let go and accept the here and now?

What Does ‘Surrender’ Really Mean? 

The term ‘surrender’ can hold multiple meanings, as many words in the English language do, leaving us often confused with how to interpret and apply the assortment of phonemes.

Typically, people associate surrendering with ceasing resistance to an enemy or opponent. Surrender’s often seen as means of giving up, handing over, losing, and giving in. 

While there are many definitions of surrender, none of these descriptions describe the surrender we’re talking about here today, which is quite different. 

For a moment, I would like you to try and take all of these previous associations of what surrender means and put them in a little box to the side (don’t worry they’ll still be there when we’re done).

Remove yourself from the duality of victory or surrender, and open up your mind to a new idea of what surrendering into an experience can feel like. 

Picture a surrender that is about letting go, but not in a way where you’re necessarily giving up or losing. A surrender that is about an active letting in, allowing and accepting, in which one is held in a space of faith and trust. 

It’s crucial to note that while understanding surrender on a conceptual level is useful, it’s equally important to know what surrender really feels like, which can be very individual, varying from person to person. 

This internal feeling of deep surrender, like many meaningful life events, sometimes needs to be experienced in order to be fully understood, and can’t always be put into words. 

Generally speaking though, we often don’t even know how much we’re hanging on to until we let it all go, so the experience of surrender can occur beyond our conceptual understandings, permeating into our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies. 

While this sacred process of letting go is beyond words, we can still explain aspects of this process, why it arises, and how to surrender to a psychedelic experience.  

Surrendering is an Active Process

In a psychedelic experience, surrendering is an active process. Meaning it’s not just a one-time, “Okay, I surrender,” and that’s it. It’s a continuous process done again and again, in which we release our template for ‘how things are supposed to be’, and allow for ‘what is’. 

Imagine you’re witnessing your experience for what it is in the moment, and continuously grounding, centering, and allowing. This is what surrendering can look like; a set of continual choices to simply allow and accept the experience as is, releasing resistance.  

Putting Your Hands up on The Psychedelic Roller Coaster

Similar to the tubing example in the introduction of this article, a useful analogy for explaining letting go during the psychedelic journey is by comparing it to a roller coaster ride. 

When you take a moderate to a high dose of any psychedelic, you are basically consenting to getting on a roller coaster ride.

This isn’t your typical ride though, as you’re essentially getting on this roller coaster blind. You have no idea what it really looks like, or how it may make you feel. You don’t get to choose where the ride goes, whether it goes forwards, backwards, upside down or has loop de loops. 

Getting on this roller coaster is inherently a plunge into the unknown, and you can’t control where the roller coaster is going no matter how hard you try. 

Now you can do one of two things on this ride; you can clench down and try to steer the vehicle (which, surprise surprise, you can’t do!), or you can put your hands in the air and try to enjoy the ride! 

In both cases, you have the same ride, the same turns, the same safety harness, all of the same things, but in the latter choice, you allow.

Even though we know logically the coaster’s a lot more enjoyable to ride when we release this control, we still can often find ourselves clenching and resisting. 

Why Do We Resist in The First Place?

When figuring out how to surrender, let go and put our hands up on this psychedelic ride, it’s important to discuss why most, if not all of us, are so often met with resistance. Generally speaking, most of our resistance can be traced back to fear.   

Fear in The Mental Sphere 

During a psychedelic journey, a fear can emerge that things are not ‘as they should be’, so we often try to control them in an attempt to relinquish this fear. Many of us have an idea in our minds of what our journey is supposed to look like. 

Whether it be experiencing oneness or seeing kaleidoscopic colors, our subconscious minds have a framework for how a psychedelic trip is meant to be. 

In reality, what actually happens during a journey rarely lines up with our expectations and creates internal friction from the desire to steer the experience in a way so that it will align with our mental image. 

Even when we try to relinquish expectations in preparation for a psychedelic trip, we find that our trips didn’t ‘go as expected’, revealing that there were expectations in place that we didn’t even realize we had to begin with. 

Many of us can be so focused on the outcome and on what’s happening after the journey. If you are very fearful of the experience, how it’s going to go, and whether it’s going to work or not, this can build up a lot of resistance in your body

We have been conditioned to try to control things, judge things, and change things, often out of this fear. But in order to truly feel that surrender, we must let go of this conditioning, and welcome in radical acceptance of the experience as it is in that moment.  

There are layers to this conditioning, as it’s not just how we feel about what we’re witnessing, and whether it’s overwhelming, but it’s also the stories and emotions we associated with that state.

Due to the way we have been domesticated by our society and individual upbringing, there can be a lot of unraveling of how things ‘should’ be, which tends to get in the way of us just being there in the moment and sitting with whatever is going on for us.

It can be a tough, yet pivotal, pill to swallow that we in our human lifetimes really don’t know how things ultimately ‘should’ be. Even when we think we know, and try to manipulate things, the idea of being in any real control of external situations is merely an illusion. 

Yet, even when we know this logically, we still may try to steer the roller coaster to bring about some sense of security. This desire to control traces back to a primal feeling of fear, fear of the unknown, fear that we aren’t in some way ‘safe’ to be with what is. 

Fear in The Physical Realm 

Our bodies are incredibly intelligent physiological beings of nature, and are here to survive in this reality. In many ways, when our bodies turn on our survival mechanisms and we feel fear, this is an attempt to keep us safe. 

For example, when we see a snake on the ground, without thinking we most likely will jump back or freeze, out of an innate survival response.

While these evolutionary systems in place are useful when there’s an actual threat, they can also be dysfunctional, like when that snake is actually just a rope. 

Just as this fearful act of self-preservation isn’t truly necessary in the case where a snake’s just a rope, these mechanisms are often falsely ignited during a psychedelic experience as well, as we experience the fear of the unknown, unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable. 

Our instincts and nervous system responses, while designed to benefit us, can actually hinder the true and fully immersive navigation of a psychedelic experience. These responses are beyond the thinking mind, making it a challenge to try and negotiate with them. 

Even when we logically know we are safe, if we witness something we’ve never experienced before, something unusual, our defense mechanisms naturally go up. 

If one is aware enough to recognize that this is happening, it can be helpful to return to one’s center and continuously choose to surrender again. 

In both the mental and physical realms of our being, if fear is present, it can be nearly impossible to surrender fully. In order to relinquish this fear, so that we can allow the journey to unfold, we first have to trust.  

How To Surrender in a Psychedelic Experience?

The Antidote to Fear is Trust 

Going back to the roller coaster analogy, when you’re getting on a roller coaster, you trust that it has been inspected, that the harness will hold your body, and you trust that other people have ridden this ride and safely gotten off.

Similarly, a certain level of trust in the psychedelic journey must be applied in order to release fear and fully surrender. Trust and faith are inextricably linked, and are the prerequisites to being able to surrender. Otherwise, we can’t let go. Having faith in yourself, the psychedelic medicine, and the space around you will assist in cultivating trust in your journey. 

Trust in Yourself 

Trusting in yourself, that you have the inner resourcing to navigate this experience will help in allowing you to let go. In order to have faith in yourself and your abilities, the way in which you relate to yourself is substantial. 

Ideally, it’s beneficial to see yourself as an ally, to hold trust in yourself that you will show up and be there in the ways that you can.

Knowing that you have all the tools and capabilities to support you in navigating this process will aid in deepening your inner trust and hence, your ability to surrender. 

If you view yourself as an enemy, feel that you are fighting against yourself, or that you are in some way broken and this experience is not in service to you, this will most likely pose more of a challenge during the journey. 

To allow for a smoother ride, try seeing the journey as something that’s happening for you, not against you, and hold a deep knowing that there’s an opportunity for healing and growth just on the other side of whatever you’re encountering.

In order to let go, you must trust that you are truly in service to yourself. It can be helpful to think about how whatever physiological mechanisms allow us to commune with these medicines in an altered state of consciousness, have evolved inside of human beings for a reason. 

Trust in The Medicine 

Knowing and trusting in your psychedelic medicine is another key component to allowing yourself to surrender. If you are worried about where your substance came from, what exactly you’re taking, how it works, or whether psychedelics are right for you, this can create a sense of unease and resistance. 

Trying your best to safely source and research the safety and risks involved with your medicine prior to ingesting it can ease some anxiety about the physical components of the substance. While this is important, there’s also a deeper trust in the medicine that’s required. 

The acknowledgment and recognition that the medicine is an ally is key. By having faith that the medicine is intelligent, knows exactly what you need and that it’s ultimately going to serve you, will aid you in your surrender.

When you see the medicine as an enemy, questioning why this is happening to you in this way, and seeing the experience as something to fight against, this will only increase resistance and limit your ability to surrender. Trust that the medicine knows what to do to serve your highest good, and that this experience is happening for you, not to you. 

Trust in Your Space 

The phrase ‘set and setting’ seem to echo throughout the psychedelic community, and for good reason. Both the mindset you possess, as well as the physical setting you are in is incredibly influential to how the trip will go.  

While trusting in both your metaphysical mind space and your physical space are crucial to surrender, it’s important to note that it’s nearly impossible to surrender mentally, emotionally, spiritually, if physically, you don’t also feel safe.

If you don’t feel physically safe in your space, or don’t feel emotionally free to experience what’s coming up for you without the judgment or intervention of others, it’ll be a lot more challenging to fully surrender. 

In order to decrease potential resistance to the experience, ensure that both the physical container, and the person that supports your journey, is one that you trust.

Building an allyship with your facilitator, friend, space holder, or those supporting you through your journey will help to anchor you in the process. Even if you are journeying solo, it’s still necessary to feel trust and safety in the physical and mental space you’re residing in to fully let go. 

Accept What is & Let Go of Control

“Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control.” 
-Jack Kornfield

Another major theme to emphasize that is important in your psychedelic journey is acceptance. You can trust in yourself, the medicine, and the space as much as you would like, but as long as you aren’t accepting of the experience itself, surrender will not come easy, and you may end up needing to navigate a bad trip

Part of surrendering is accepting exactly what your experience is for what it is in the moment, without having any input as to where the experience “should” go. Ideally, true acceptance is removing the “should” from it all together. 

When asked how to accept and surrender during a psychedelic experience, an anonymous respondent words it quite well:

“It comes down to relinquishing control and attachments. It helps to stop analyzing what the sensations mean and to simply observe and feel them. If you fear and feel like you’re going to die, give yourself permission to die.

See the things that you’re holding on, express gratitude, and let them go. Trust the mushrooms and let it happen. I think it’s challenging because many of us have rarely experienced situations in our day to day lives where we feel truly powerless. 

That’s a scary and uncomfortable experience. Once you ingest mushrooms, you can’t stop the experience. You have to see it through to the end. Instead of trying to swim against the current, surrendering means you stop kicking and allow yourself to float and taken where the water takes you.” -Anonymous Respondent

Practice accepting whatever comes up, even if it’s uncomfortable or challenging, as it comes up, and actively let go of those urges to control. Remember that your efforts to steer or control the ride only hinders your ability to fully surrender. Do your best to simply sit back, relax and enjoy the ride for what it is. 

Practicing Surrender in Your Daily Life

Now that we’ve gone through a deeper conceptual understanding of what it is to surrender and why we resist, let’s discuss some more tangible ways in which we can actively welcome in surrender. 

The best way to have the ability to surrender during your psychedelic experience is to work on it beforehand. In our everyday lives, there are opportunities to take a step back, to be the witness of our experiences, beliefs, and judgments, and to let them go. 

For example, when you’re in traffic, or get cut off, you can surrender whatever feelings, beliefs, or judgments arise toward the experience. Or if you’re getting triggered, you can simply take a step back and notice that it is happening, and become the witness to it. 

By practicing mindfulness ahead of time and flexing these ‘mental muscles’, you can become more competent in your abilities to get into the witness standpoint and surrender, which will ultimately assist you when you actually commune with the medicine. 

Feeling prepared in this sense, as well as being prepared physically and mentally with a safe space and mindset will set you up for a greater ability to really let go and let flow during your trip. 

Connecting With Your Breath

Both in our day to day lives and during a psychedelic journey, the breath is incredibly important. Our breath is our life force, flowing energy in and out of us. The breath also resides in a special place, not in the past or future, but in the eternal now.  

Breathing can be a way to anchor us into the present moment and into our bodies. As surrendering is an active process, it can include continuously returning back to your breath, settling back into the witness and just watching what’s coming up. 

How we breathe often affects how we feel, so taking deep mindful breaths can often be a supportive way to calm the nervous system and navigate challenging emotions coming up.   

“I take deep breaths and try to relax my body, I feel the tension leave my stressed muscles, like meditating”
-Anonymous respondent

Reciting a Mantra 

A meaningful mantra, series of words, or repeating an intention that you find grounding and calming may help you to recenter through the challenging periods of your journey. 

By repeating these words, you can continuously allow surrendering to be an active process. The following are mantras that you may find of service, but feel free to create your own.

  • “I trust, I release, I am open”
  • “I am safe”
  • “I grow with the flow”
  • “I am love and I am loved”

Whether you find yourself aligned with a specific spiritual path or not, repeating mantras, prayers, and even holding benevolent spiritual beings in your mind during your journey can be a worthwhile focus point as you approach surrender. 

Practicing Patience 

“Sometimes surrender means giving up trying to understand and becoming comfortable with not knowing.” Eckhart Tolle

Oftentimes we can hear reports of journeyers explaining how their experience was “exactly what they needed”. While this is generally true, know that this sentiment doesn’t often come immediately during or after the trip. 

In fact, it’s normal for things to get slightly worse or messier before they get better. We can’t always understand things in the moment and why they’re occurring in a certain way, so it’s important to have patience with both yourself and the medicine. 

It’s helpful to maintain faith that this experience is serving you in the moment, and has served you after the journey comes to a close. Try to be gentle with yourself by giving yourself time to adjust to the medicine’s effects.

Know that integration can take time, and that by trying to force yourself to adhere to a certain timeline won’t be useful to you or your healing process. 

For most folks, integration and support after the journey can be just as significant as the preparation and experience itself, so it’s beneficial to also continue building your trust and surrender to the healing process that comes after your journey as well. 

FAQs About Surrendering in a Psychedelic Experience

How Do We Know When We Have Surrendered? 

As we talked about earlier, surrendering isn’t a one-time deal, but more so an ongoing active process. It’s not like you’re just crossing the finish line at a race and given a gold medal with “I’ve surrendered” engraved on it. 

The conceptual grasping that ‘I’ve surrendered’ often doesn’t occur at the same time as the surrender itself, since the thinking mind and the act of surrender are on two very different planes of experience. 

So during the moments when you’ve put your hands up on the roller coaster or allow yourself to flow with the river, you most likely won’t be thinking “oh look I’m surrendering!”. You’ll more so be immersed in the experience itself. 

While again, the feeling of surrender can vary and can’t be perfectly described in words, here are a few indicators that you may be in the process of surrendering. During your surrendering you’ll most likely: 

  • No longer feel defensive, or feel resistance
  • Have an openness and general allowance of ‘what is’
  • Be in the “here & now” (the present moment)

What’s The Difference Between Surrendering & Giving Up?

“Surrender is not a weakness, it is a strength. It takes tremendous strength to surrender life to the supreme – to the cosmic unfolding.” -Mooji

When one surrenders into their psychedelic experience, they aren’t throwing in the towel and saying “I want this to be over”. This is giving up. 

By giving up by and seeing the experience as something that doesn’t hold any value, this can result in wanting to stop the journey altogether, potentially bringing on a bad trip.

This is much different than acknowledging that the experience itself is difficult. Surrendering can involve acknowledging the challenges of the journey, while still having deep faith and trust that what they’re going through has potential, and can be a part of their healing

When we Surrender, Who or What Are we Surrendering to?

The answer to this question is as complex as the query itself. We’re often so used to ‘being in control’, that when we are asked to surrender, knowing who we’re ‘handing the keys over to’ becomes important to us (ironically another attempt to maintain that sense of control). 

Whether it be the psychedelic plant medicine, spirit, your subconscious mind, source, or something else altogether, I can tell you that whatever it is you perceive as the thing you’re letting ‘take the reins’ doesn’t necessarily matter that much. 

While I know this answer probably isn’t the one you were looking for, it’s the realest one I can provide. What’s more important here actually isn’t conceptualizing who or what is ‘taking control’, but it is the faith that you put in this force. 

Having trust in whatever you’re surrendering to, and allowing and accepting that force to be exactly what it is, will be more impactful than knowing what it is exactly.

Since, in truth, we may never truly know the answer to these otherworldly inquiries. So my best advice to you would be to hand the keys over to whatever concept allows you to trust and have faith.  

Talk To a Psychedelic Professional 

If you’re curious about how you, as an individual, can best allow yourself to let go, surrender and put your hands up on the psychedelic coaster ride, we empower you to book a consultation with us to connect with a knowledgeable psychedelic facilitator. 

To learn more about psychedelics, you can also always check out more informative articles like this one on our resources page

We hope today’s article helped give you a conceptual understanding and tangible tips for how to surrender. Thanks for reading friends, and as always, we wish you safe and mindful journeying! 

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