The Castalia Foundation operates on the principle that you are your own guru; shaman; priest; doctor. On this basis, we are reluctant to prescribe specific session structures. This section has therefore been written to provide you with a flexible starting-point for your own experimentation and is not meant to be an inflexible prescription for MDMA self-therapy. That said, in this section we will specifically describe one possible MDMA session plan.
This plan has been found to be effective in a wide-range of cases. It can serve as a framework for the beginner, or as a new method for those who have already experienced MDMA with a therapist but wish to embark on the solo method.
The most effective MDMA sessions do not begin until a preparatory phase is complete. During this preparatory phase, the solo-traveler takes a week, or more, to consider the session. This allows time for relevant traumatic material to organize itself in the subconscious mind in anticipation of release. This ‘pre-flight’ phase is well-known in traditional LSD or holotropic breathwork sessions. This phase also allows various subconscious processes to unfold in the time leading up to a planned psychedelic session.
During this preparatory time, the traveler may find that the intensity of their dreams increases, or other psychological epiphenomena arise. This is a sign that the psyche is preparing itself for the therapeutic experience of an MDMA session. For this reason, it is generally inadvisable to undertake an MDMA Solo session on an impromptu basis. Sessions should (with some exceptions) be scheduled a minimum of a week or more in advance. This will give the subconscious mind adequate time to ‘housekeep’ and ‘arrange’ various subconscious systems in anticipation of the approaching session date.
The Castalia Foundation strongly advises that you are extremely well rested in the days prior to a solo-MDMA session. We also suggest that your sessions are scheduled to begin around sunrise. There are two reasons for this: The first is that the rising of the sun is a symbolically potent parallel to your own journey. The second is that sessions which begin in the morning will typically end before sunset.
Beginning a session in the early morning ensures that you can eat, rest and then sleep at your normal time at night without breaking the natural pattern of the body’s circadian rhythm. Although MDMA sessions can be scheduled later in the day, a common consequence of doing later sessions is a restlessness and sleepless as the stimulating effects of the MDMA persist into the night. Without exception, we have found that sessions begun in the morning are much more effective and less draining on the body.
A typical session time is between five and eight hours, but sessions can occasionally be shorter or longer than this. Sometimes the material demands a longer session, and other times a relatively short session may feel right. However, be cautious when ending a session prior to the five hour mark - this could represent an unconscious defensive tactic to avoid difficult material.
Predicting the exact length of an MDMA session is impossible because it is determined by factors including:
• The material to be processed.
• The speed at which it is processed.
• Resistance and distraction by aspects of the psyche.
• The choice of dosing strategies.
It is often the case that we resist the emergence of difficult traumatic material, even when under the influence of MDMA. This is because it has become our habitual pattern to do so. This habitual pattern is our enduring protective mechanisms of suppression, repression, or ‘depression’ (meaning ’to push down’). This is the very mechanism that saved you from being overwhelmed by your nervous system at the time of traumatic experience. Sadly, many ‘medical’ providers misdiagnose ‘depression’ as an illness, when it is, most often, a symptom.
‘Depression’ is the act of pushing-down. But what is being pushed down? Feelings, memories and (most often) anger.
The experienced solo-traveler will soon come to discover that the human mind has an incredible ability to protect itself under extreme duress. It often enacts this protective function by splitting and compartmentalizing traumatic experience. This experience is then separated from conscious awareness as a protective function.
The psychological ‘floodgates’ that are lowered into compartments of the mind during times of trauma can be opened up during MDMA therapy. The experience of opening these floodgates—as sessions progress—runs the gamut from fear (in early sessions) to a calm familiarity (in later sessions).
Although the conscious mind never fully relaxes into the process of wholesale adjustment and re-adjustment demanded by MDMA Solo sessions, there does come a point in self-healing where encountering the unexpected becomes more expected. While, in early sessions, you may feel a sense of panic and fear which must be attenuated by deep breathing, in later sessions, you will find it easier to switch into a mode of meditative acceptance. For this reason, it is useful to have an existing meditative breath work practice from which to draw experience.
Solo MDMA therapy is, therefore, not unlike yoga: it becomes much easier to work with MDMA when your breath is used to consciously move through and into emotional states as they arise. Overall, the subjective experience in an effective MDMA session is one of running towards spaces in your mind that you have (consciously or not) previously run away from. This can take some practice.
For your first few MDMA sessions, The Castalia Foundation suggests one dose of MDMA in the 75-120mg range, followed by a second dose, 80 minutes later, in the 40-60mg range. This second dose is commonly referred to as a ‘booster’ dose and can sustain the effects of the MDMA for a longer length of time. These doses are not specified as an ‘ideal’ dose, but merely as a known safe-dose that will give the solo-traveler a broad impression of the capabilities of MDMA.
Once you have some experience in this range of dosing, you may later decide to use less, or slightly more MDMA during a session. There are many variables to consider when making a decision about dosing.
In later sessions, you may choose to use different dose combinations. This includes the option to adopt a practice known as tapered dosing when, and if, appropriate. Tapered dosing is where the booster dose of MDMA is given several times at increasingly smaller doses over several hours. This has the effect of ‘landing’ the MDMA experience more gently—easing the transition between the MDMA state and everyday waking consciousness. This can be vital when processing the most extreme trauma—the type of compound traumas that took place over many days or weeks.
Examples of extreme trauma include prolonged episodes of ritual abuse, torture or captivity. If your history does not include this type of trauma, then tapered dosing, or higher doses will not be necessary. Bear in mind, however, that it is not always possible to predict what material will emerge during a session. Many survivors of extreme trauma have deeply 'depressed' these experiences. For this reason, it is useful to be aware that tapered-dosing is an option, even if you do not expect to use it.
Once the first dose of MDMA has been taken, it is good practice to set a timer for 80 minutes. This will remind you to take the smaller, booster dose of MDMA. Onset of action for the first dose will be approximately one hour, but it is not unknown for the effects, or anticipation of the effects, to be felt within minutes. Conversely, you may feel no conscious awareness of the MDMA taking effect until after you have taken the booster dose 80 minutes after the first dose.
There is normally a ‘this isn’t working’ phase for most first-time explorers during the first hour after ingesting the MDMA. This is entirely to be expected and rather than fixating on this feeling, it is useful simply to find a quiet space to reflect and meditate before the MDMA begins its work.
The reason for a wide variation in the onset of effect when using MDMA is likely to be a combination of psychosomatic factors, varied metabolism and/or unconscious resistance. Your diet leading up to and on the morning of the MDMA session will also have an impact on the rate of onset and the quality of the experience. We discuss these factors in more detail in the chapter titled Optimizing Your Body for a Session.
Whatever the precise causes for variation in the speed of onset in each individual case, the MDMA will invariably have some noticeable influence within the first two hours of imbibing it. Ironically, whenever the MDMA does actually begin to thread its way into your neurobiological tapestry, your focus is likely to be on the material emerging from your psyche rather than the fact the MDMA is ‘working’.
Traditional MDMA 'therapy' sessions involve the ‘patient’ lying down on a couch or bed. We reject this prescription and have found more success when solo-travelers are free to choose the environment and position in which they undertake their exploration.
It is often more effective to begin a session sat upright in a meditative posture and then to choose, later in the session, what position best suits processing of the traumatic material as it arises. You may change position several times during a session, stretch, pace, dance, go yoga, or even run on the spot. The important thing is to remain in a safe space, permit yourself a full range of motion, and watch out for any defences which may occasionally use unnecessary movement as a means of distracting you from addressing an internal problem.
Much of the work required to heal trauma with MDMA is internal work, and for this reason it is advisable to limit distractions as much as possible during a session. A neutral default position can be returned to if you need to reground yourself. Placing a cushion on the floor and assuming a traditional crossed-leg meditation pose is a popular pose. Sitting upright in a chair can also be a good place to begin a session.
The Castalia Foundation does not prescribe any particular set and setting. Instead, here are a few examples which illustrate the variety of settings in which MDMA can be used to heal. Please feel free to experiment with your own environment for optimal effect:
• Sitting upright in a comfortable chair in a sunlit room.
• Lying down on a bed in the dark.
• Sat on the floor, looking at childhood photographs.
• In front of a piano.
• In a quiet garden where you will not be disturbed.
• In a hotel room; a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door.
• In a vehicle, parked where you will not be disturbed.
These are just a few examples to give a sense of a variety of spaces in which MDMA can be safely used by a solo-traveler. The most important considerations are solitude, privacy, peace, and quiet. Provided distractions are kept to a minimum, we have learned to trust a person’s instinctual sense of how and where they want to heal.
As a broad rule-of-thumb, you can choose the location where you want to undertake your solo-sessions based on asking yourself the following question: “If there was a quiet, gentle space, where I would like to meet myself as a child again and have a conversation with that child: Where would I meet this child for eight hours, without distraction, and what else would be in that space?”
Obviously some travelers will be limited by resources and budget, so feel free to improvise. The most important thing is that you feel safe, comfortable, and away from people. Although this might sound somewhat unnerving to begin with, it is precisely the feeling of not wanting to be alone, or fearing what doing a session alone might entail, that is your resistance to the process of truly meeting yourself. If you cohabit with others, you will need to ask them to respect your need for time alone. The Castalia Foundation has received reports from self-healers who have rented a holiday apartment in their own town for a weekend. This is often an easy way to find a quiet space if you cannot guarantee it in your own home.
If necessary, the MDMA Solo process can take place while others are nearby, but resist the impulse to make contact with people before your session is complete. It is very easy to get distracted. Socializing during a planned MDMA Solo session is often a form of psychological resistance to confronting your own internal landscape.
As a precaution, for the first two sessions, at the minimum, we recommend that you have access to the telephone number of a trusted friend who you can call in an absolute emergency. We also strongly advise you to write a note to yourself before the session and display it prominently in the room. This note should read something like, “You can do this. Trust yourself. I love you. Everything will be okay.”
This note should be sufficient to remind you to persist in your inner journey alone, without reaching out for external help. The objective here, after all, is to build strong internal resources, not to build new dependencies. The more persistent you are in visiting, and re-visiting your traumas in a safe, trusted space, alone, the more you will build the infrastructure of self-care that was stripped from so many of us as children.
It is critical, on the morning of an MDMA session, to eat a light, simple breakfast—porridge, for example. It is also advisable to make at least three large glasses of fresh-fruit smoothies; a light snack (for half-way through the session); and dinner (for afterwards). Consuming these three smoothies at intervals during your MDMA Solo session will minimize the chance of a ‘comedown’ after the effects of the MDMA have worn off. The smoothies can be drunk at approximately two-hour intervals as the session progresses. Dinner can include a fruit salad as a dessert. You can also supplement after the session with a standard multivitamin pill.
With adequate self-care, and sleep, the nutritional-causes of side-effects from the MDMA (in the doses described in the next chapter) can be eliminated.
If, after our nutritional guidelines are carefully followed, a ‘comedown’ is still felt, this feeling is extremely likely to be a counterattack from internal defences and not an inherent side-effect of the MDMA experience itself.
There has been a significant propaganda campaign waged against MDMA by authoritarian governments. This propaganda has been compounded by the popular use of ‘ecstasy’ (a commonly adulterated street form of MDMA) in club settings.
Casual use of ‘ecstasy’ (the street drug) has added to the hysteria surrounding respectful use of MDMA (the pure, crystal compound). Many clubbers neglect their health when using ‘ecstasy’. Additionally, many clubbers use ‘ecstasy’ which is not pure MDMA. Street ‘ecstasy’ is commonly mixed with all kinds of other substances, including speed (Methamphetamine)—a notoriously unhealthy additive.
Even pure MDMA—when it is available on the street—is often misused in a club. As a result, users claim that a post-trip ‘comedown’ is a natural consequence of the ‘ecstasy’ or MDMA experience. In reality, most so-called ‘comedowns’ are a clear consequence of dehydration, lack of sleep, poor eating-habits, or using MDMA to escape feelings rather than engage with them. Comedowns can also be a consequence of clubbers using a completely different substance to the ‘MDMA’ which was purportedly sold to them.
While we encourage every reader to do their own research, The Castalia Foundation has found that MDMA, at doses below 300mg (in three or more tapered-doses over a single session) does not cause perceptible long-term negative side effects in the human population. In fact, quite the opposite.
We refer to this 300mg dose not as a starting point for solo-sessions, but as an advisable maximum session-total that can be used when dealing with the most extreme traumas—for example, extensive ritual abuse. An example of a 300mg tapered-dosing strategy for confronting the most extreme trauma is:
• 120mg MDMA first-dose
• 60mg MDMA 80 minutes after first-dose
• 50mg MDMA 160 minutes after first-dose
• 40mg MDMA 240 minutes after first-dose
• 30mg MDMA 320 minutes after first-dose
The Castalia Foundation has recently become aware that experienced self-healers may benefit from per-session dosing in excess of 300mg of MDMA, though not more than 400mg. Whether more MDMA than 400mg per-day is neurotoxic is a moot-point; it is apparently not beneficial to use a larger dose for self-healing, and nor would we endorse it. More typically, two low doses (75-120mg, first-dose; 60mg second-dose) can be used very effectively in solo sessions without the need for additional, or tapered, dosing.
One objective of solo-use MDMA therapy is to reach a point where you are able to choose your own dose—within known safe ranges. The Castalia Foundation has determined that a cautious dosing strategy for a beginner is a single dose of 75mg. This will allow you to understand something of the nature of the MDMA experience. The most vigilant first-time traveler is also welcome to dose a very small amount of MDMA (1mg or less) to check for allergic reaction. This can be done at some point in the days before a planned session. Such a low dose will have no psychological effect, but it should be sufficient to gauge if the substance is not well-tolerated by your body. That said, we have heard no reports of an allergic reaction to MDMA.
The purity of the MDMA you use is dependent on the skill of the chemist(s) who prepared it. The purity of the MDMA will have an effect on your experience because it must be factored into the measured weight of the dose. This topic goes well beyond the scope of this book, suffice to say that it is possible to have your MDMA anonymously tested at a laboratory to determine both the content and the purity of the substance you are handling.
At some point during your self-healing program, given a reliable and pure supply of MDMA, you will begin to develop an intuitive sense (consciously or not) of what might arise in the next session, and dose appropriately.
Typically, self-healers are concerned with using too much MDMA, and this is an important consideration. However, lower doses of MDMA can occasionally be insufficient in providing adequate support to a survivor when extreme trauma rises for processing. This can result in a feeling of uneasiness and ‘being on a precipice’. Equally, too high a dose can cause a person to sail blissfully past traumatic material. It can then be difficult to focus on the objective of the session.
The optimum MDMA dose for a solo session is, therefore dependent on three factors: First, the severity of the trauma to be healed. Second, known safe limits together with your personal tolerance of the MDMA. Finally: The purity of the MDMA batch.
After approximately ten sessions, solo-travelers will tend to reach a state of symbiosis with the MDMA and can choose their own dose for sessions, within known safe ranges. We recommend running these initial ten sessions using the 75-120mg, first-dose; 60mg second-dose strategy. This will provide a good grounding from which to make customized dosing decisions later in your journey.
The process of long-term healing using MDMA tends to be one of twosteps forward, one step back. Breakthroughs are often followed by counter-attacks by those internal processes which have habitually protected you from the full affects of early trauma. To use a metaphor: Each time you use MDMA to break through the ‘castle gates’ of your psyche to free the part-selves of you that are imprisoned in the rooms within, there tends to be a short but uncomfortable counter-strike. This counter-strike is an indication that those ‘guards’ who abandoned their posts under the calming effects of the MDMA are now re-activated and shocked to discover the doors of the ‘castle’ have been opened and prisoners freed.
This might sound like a somewhat bizarre situation: Why would your psyche contain ‘guards’ that attack you? The simple explanation is that these ‘guards’ were created at the time of severe trauma as a means by which to shut-down and close-off regions of experience that would otherwise have debilitated you.
With time, the function of these internal ‘guards’ became unnecessary, but they have persisted in their work. Hence, these ‘guards’ or ‘introjects’ are both ‘protectors’—they protect you against the overwhelming traumatic material; and also ‘persecutors’—they persecute you by limiting your freedom of feeling and expression. This is a superficial explanation and you can learn more about internal mechanisms of trauma-management in the section of this book titled ‘Protector Persecutor Introjects’.
Post-session aftercare is extremely important. The objective with aftercare is to calm and soothe yourself in the hours and days after an MDMA session. There are many different ways to do this, but at the most basic level, The Castalia Foundation has found that preparing a soft, quiet sleeping area; fresh-fruit smoothies; and a light meal are good ways to close a session.
Do not expect to necessarily feel immediately better after an MDMA session. It may take one or two days to fully determine what effect a session has had on your general well-being. It is often the case that significant breakthroughs come in the days following an MDMA session rather than in the session itself.
In order to maximize the opportunity for such breakthroughs to occur, it is advisable to ensure that you have a minimum of one free day after a session. This space and time will give you the opportunity to reflect on material that emerged during the session and to explore any emerging feelings and emotions that typically rise up to be felt.
Naturally, with a typical working schedule, this means that you may need to commit many weekends to your therapy work. MDMA is a powerful therapeutic tool, but it is a mistake to assume that your session ends when the tangible effects of the MDMA wear off. More often, solo-MDMA therapy is a process that unfolds over days, weeks and months.
Your solo-sessions with MDMA will punctuate this process with moments of deeper revelation and the excavation of traumatic material. However, the intervals between sessions are part of the experience. New realizations, discoveries and healing moments can occur at any time once your journey is begun.
Healing with MDMA is a journey that, with full-commitment, is a new lifestyle choice: It is the choice to feel and accept yourself at all times; everywhere. Do not expect moments of grief, sadness, joy or confusion to confine themselves only to the allocated hours of the MDMAsession. By the end of the healing process, you will have become an expert in listening to yourself, and caring for yourself both during a session, and in the world outside.
Many of us who undertake solo-therapy with MDMA have, because of the very nature of our early trauma, struggled to adopt a healthy self-care routine. It is important, then, to be vigilant during the recovery process. You will, in effect, self-teach yourself an entirely new way of relating; personally and inter-personally. As the MDMA healing process unfolds, it is normal to suffer momentary setbacks which then bring you more understanding about the ways that you were taught to neglect, ignore or mistreat yourself. These behaviors were, most often, programmed into you by the way that caregivers related to you during your most vulnerable and formative phase of life: Childhood. In short, as children, we learn to treat ourselves inside as we are treated by others outside.
The repetitive commands and rebukes of our caregivers often come to supersede our inner voice as children. Many of us, as adults, have forgotten how and when our inner voice was taken from us. We have forgotten how our self-confidence was hijacked by a long-gone caregiver.
Many humans, consequently, do not have full-control of how they think and act because they remain joyridden by the ghosts of their childhood ‘programmers’.
In summary: Do not expect any single MDMA session to improve your general sense of wellbeing. Sometimes the opposite can happen. However, over several sessions you should notice an upwardly-trending improvement in your sense of calm and connection with the world and other people.
Looking after yourself immediately after a session is critical. Prepare for the eventuality that you may feel extremely drained and tired after processing difficult material. Try to relate to yourself in these moments as you would to a child: Give yourself healthy food; stay hydrated; get to bed at sunset; and remind yourself that the process is worth the journey. As always, mediation, yoga, or adjunctive therapy with low-dose LSD, can be extremely useful when managing the occasionally difficult after-effects of deep trauma-healing work with MDMA.
An MDMA integration phase takes place in the interlude between MDMA sessions. It is a time during which you process and reflect on the material that rose up in the previous session. This phase typically involves an activity or task that is undertaken with the specific intent of releasing any abreactions or feelings from the body that remain unresolved from an MDMA session.
For example, when revisiting an experience of childhood violence while supported by MDMA, you may re-experience a series of feelings and tensions that related to this specific act of violence. Although the bulk of these feelings will be released during the solo MDMA session itself, often others will be released in the days that follow a session.
It is often the case that—particularly with more severe traumatic episodes—these difficult feelings persist into everyday life after the session. A conscious effort must therefore be made to find space and time to safely defuse these associated tensions.
Integrating an MDMA session is as important as the session itself. Integration is an opportunity to work through previously denied emotions and to establish a new sense of personal wholeness. Integration is the process by which you accept and interleave your previous self-identity with an updated self-identity which includes the previously shut-off traumatic material.
Walking, swimming, meditation, yoga, drawing, journalling orplaying music are all possible means by which to integrate material from an MDMA session. You may choose to set an intention, during these activities, to reflect on whatever rose up during your MDMA session, and to consciously defuse the psycho-emotional payload of your past through movement in the present.
The Castalia Foundation does not wish to prescribe any particular method for integration. We have, however, observed great results in those who take long, quiet walks in nature, especially around a lake, and set an intention to use this time to integrate their MDMA session.
Any quiet, thoughtful activity that gives space and time to think can be a great way to process a session. We reject the traditional approach of integrating with a ‘therapist’ or ‘support group’. This is prone to reenactment, distraction and displacement.
Those solo-travelers with complex traumas that spanned many years, and involved many abusers, may find it is useful to draw a large ‘map’ of experiences which is added to after every session. In effect, excavating trauma of this scale can be like piecing together a complex jigsaw puzzle and will require prolonged integration phases in which shattered aspects of the psyche are given time to fully defuse their affect-storms. Anger can be a significant emotion during these integration phases, so it is critically important to find a safe, convenient way to express this without displacing it onto another human. Some self-healers find that acquiring a punch-bag and some boxing gloves is an essential way to release anger during this time.
Hitting a punch-bag, a pillow, or something similar, is not necessarily a long-term solution to the problem of split-off anger. Expressing this anger is a release valve for the energy that was previously fueling depression, and must now be directed somewhere else. If we don't hit the punching bag, or pillow, there is a risk we will 'hit', literally or psychologically, another person. This previously latent energy must go somewhere even if this process of release is not the ultimate resolution of the problem. The ultimate resolution, of course, is to integrate the split aspect. Continue reading - Go to Part III >>