Day Tripping Revisited

Jul 24, 2023 5 Min Read

Yesterday I cut a plate of fruit for my middle son and, as I stepped outside to set it down for him, the sun hit the green of the shiny kiwi fruit. Its color was between the orange of the orange and the bright red of the ripe strawberries, and I was moved by the beauty of handing him this plate of gorgeousness. I felt for a brief moment like I was tripping.

The experience was charged with a shot of electricity and momentarily sent me back to my years at Northwestern University School of Speech in the 1980s—actually to one specific annual event called Armadillo Day.

This festival was a 1960s throwback (the faculty oddly never stopped it), where practically the whole student body took hallucinogenic drugs and spent the sunny hours lying on the grass of the Evanston campus and marveling at the wonders of the world. (As psychedelics become valued parts of our medical and therapeutic system, I hope a story about them will not offend.)

My best friend, Elizabeth, and I would choke down magic mushrooms in the morning—followed by blueberry Pop-Tarts—trying to eat just enough to mask the nightmarish aftertaste, but not enough to take the shimmer off the day. And then, about ninety minutes later, the world became a lava lamp come to life. One of my strong memories, even thirty-five years later, is taking rainbow-colored candy sticks and sticking them into lemons so we could suck out the juice through the holes in the middle. Transcendent.

It’s been decades since I’ve taken mushrooms, but I’ve noticed that I’ve begun to have more and more “mushroom moments,” where even without the help of psilocybin in my blood I find myself “tripping” on the beauty of just being alive. This learning has been amplified by a spectacular but old book I’ve been listening to, called The Middle Passage by a Jungian writer and analyst named James Hollis.

When I came upon this book, I did not see its subtitle (From Misery to Meaning in Midlife) but rather was merely curious about writers exploring the middle of life. It’s about a certain age, but its lessons are ones I wish I’d heard when I was twenty years old.

Hollis teaches that the “first adulthood,” which we enter after our teen years and remain in for decades, often involves forming our personalities around what others want, expect, and demand. We play the role of this cobbled together “us” we’ve created until the middle passage, (or sooner, if you are lucky), when one wakes up to the question, “Who would I be, and what would I do if I’d formed myself reactively?” It’s been a marvelous exploration that has returned me to many simple sensory joys as part of my own exploration.

The brilliant neuroscientist and author Sam Harris has many teachings that can snap you into the present and a moment of shrooming on the beauty before you. In one favorite, he tells us that we never know when we are experiencing the last of something—the last time we will pick up our kids or the last time we will see a loved one or friend—so we must hold precious each and every experience against this backdrop to elicit a mindful reverence of the simple joys of life. This lens has worked for me as well to magnify beauty.

Read more: The Magic of Daily Gratitude Rituals

Like a million times in my over-energized life, I see that each of these lessons is about slowing down and allowing rather than creating, shifting the motion and energy of life down one gear and moving from one meaningful moment to the next. In fact, this orientation has allowed me to ride some very hard times in the last two years. Those tiny joys won’t leave you even when big goals are shattered or other dreams fail.

For the many folks out there who have trouble practicing gratitude, who feel it’s too sappy or too Oprah to make the lists so often advocated for mental health, I say go smaller and go sensory. Reaching to find large anchors of gratitude can be authentically difficult, especially for a gratitude beginner, but if you focus on your senses, you can find these bounteous moments everywhere, from a squirrel running up a tree in the morning to the smell of a yummy hand cream to the sun hitting your kiwi.

This article was also published on Juliet Funt's LinkedIn

Edited by: Irfan Razali

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Juliet Funt is the founder and CEO at JFG (Juliet Funt Group), which is a consulting and training firm built upon the popular teaching of CEO Juliet Funt, author of A Minute to Think.

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