Can You Trip Without Psychedelics?

Meditation, breathwork, and more bring mystical experiences. Explore these approaches for profound insights and unity—without psychedelics.
Mystical Experiences. A landscape background with a turquoise and blue tint. A few vertical lines act as 'windows,' revealing the actual real-life coloring of the landscape. A male-appearing person is facing away from the camera, presumably jumping or landing from a jump, but it looks like they might be levitating with their back somewhat arched. They are wearing brown long pants and a deep green long-sleeve top.
Author: Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP
By Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP
December 4, 2023

Most people associate psychedelic experiences with the trip. A trip is where your mind is altered. You have sensory experiences that seem real but only exist in your mind. A psychedelic trip can lead to ego dissolution, create a feeling of oneness, and bring out deeply rooted emotions. Many have credited mystical experiences in their psychedelic journeys for their personal growth and transformation. 

So, can you have a psychedelic trip without taking plant medicine? Read on to learn about alternative ways you can trip.

Psychedelics and Mystical Experiences

Not everyone who takes psychedelics has a mystical experience; the psychedelic effect differs between individuals. The full scientific understanding of how psychedelics induce mystical experiences is still an ongoing area of research.

What we know is that experiencing an altered state of consciousness is due to the psychedelic’s effects on our brain. In particular, this refers to the Default Mode Network (DMN).

The DMN is a network in the brain that’s active when we’re at rest—not focused on the outside world. It’s associated with self-referential thoughts, the ego, and our sense of self. 

Psychedelics, like psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) or LSD, seem to dampen the activity of the DMN. This reduction in activity can lead to a blurring of the boundaries between the self and the external world.

While the DMN is quieted, other parts of the brain begin to communicate in ways they don’t normally do. This heightened connectivity can lead to a sense of unity, where people feel deeply connected to the world around them. 

Psychedelics can distort our perception of time. Minutes might feel like hours, or hours like minutes. Some have reported feeling like time is standing still. This distortion can contribute to feelings of timelessness and a sense of being outside of ordinary reality.

A psychedelic trip can allow you to experience profound emotions, including awe and a deep feeling of peace and interconnectedness. Mystical experiences often involve encounters with what may feel like transcendent or divine realities. People have reported meeting spiritual entities, experiencing oneness with the universe, or feeling profound insights into the nature of existence.

Read about Integrating Mystical Experiences and Non-ordinary States of Consciousness

How to Trip Without Psychedelics

It’s possible to have experiences that resemble the mystical experiences associated with psychedelics without taking any drugs. Here are some ways to explore altered states of consciousness and reach similar states of mind:


A study looked at mystical experiences among experienced meditators. Participants completed the States of Consciousness Questionnaire (SOCQ) and the Mysticism Scale before and after a 3-week period of intensive retreat. A control group with a similar level of meditation experience was used to compare the measures. 

Results showed that retreat group participants were significantly more likely to report the following compared to the control group:

  • Profound insights 
  • Powerful emotional experiencesintegr
  • Non-ordinary sensory or perceptual events 
  • Greater levels of specific dimensions of mystical experience, including internal unity, transcendence, sacredness, noetic quality, and deeply felt positive affect.

The study authors concluded that “these findings support the idea that intensive periods of meditation training are associated with a range of profound and mystical-type experiences.”

Meditation can lead to mystical experiences through several mechanisms, primarily by altering your state of consciousness and perception. Meditation helps you shift your awareness from the external world to your inner self. You enter an altered state of consciousness by focusing on your breath, a mantra, or an aspect of your consciousness. This shift allows you to perceive reality differently.

One of the primary elements of mystical experiences is the dissolution of the ego or the sense of self. In deep meditation, you may experience a profound sense of selflessness. The boundary between “I” and the external world blurs or dissolves in this sense.

Meditation can lead to a sense of timelessness or time distortion, a common feature of mystical experiences.

It’s important to note that not all meditation sessions lead to mystical experiences. The intensity and nature of these experiences can vary significantly from person to person. 

Experienced meditation practitioners and those with spiritual or contemplative backgrounds may be more likely to encounter mystical-like experiences through meditation. 

Kundalini Yoga 

Kundalini yoga is a spiritual and physical practice that aims to awaken the dormant energy within the body. This energy is often represented as a coiled serpent (kundalini) at the base of the spine. 

The practice involves a combination of physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and the chanting of mantras. Kundalini yoga is designed to activate the kundalini energy and facilitate its ascent along the spine. 

As this energy rises through the chakras (energy centers), it is thought to unlock higher states of consciousness and spirituality, leading to mystical experiences. Each chakra is associated with different aspects of human experience. When they are balanced and open, they can lead to profound spiritual insights.

The intense physical and meditative aspects of kundalini yoga can induce altered states of consciousness. These states may involve a sense of oneness, unity with the universe, and a feeling of transcendence. Practitioners often report experiencing a deep connection to the divine or a higher power.

Kundalini yoga emphasizes inner awareness, mindfulness, and self-realization. As individuals delve deeper into their practice, they may gain insights into their true self, the nature of reality, and the interconnectedness of all life, which are often considered mystical experiences.


Breathwork can lead to mystical experiences; however, the exact neural and physiological processes are not fully understood. There are some theories that may explain their effect.

Breathwork often involves focused awareness of the breath. This mindful concentration can promote self-reflection, increased self-awareness, and a sense of oneness with the universe.

Deep and rhythmic breathing techniques can influence the balance between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems. By activating the parasympathetic nervous system, breathwork can reduce stress and anxiety. This leads to a more relaxed state of mind that may be conducive to mystical experiences.

Breathwork increases oxygen intake, blood flow, and circulation. This can lead to altered states of consciousness and heightened sensory perceptions, potentially contributing to mystical experiences.

Intense and focused breathwork can lead to the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are associated with feelings of euphoria and well-being. They can influence one’s emotional state and perception of reality, potentially leading to mystical experiences.

Deep, rhythmic breathing can stimulate the limbic system, a part of the brain associated with emotions and memory. This activation may lead to the retrieval of emotionally charged memories and experiences. In turn, this could contribute to feelings of interconnectedness or unity, often reported in mystical experiences.

Hyperventilating, rapid, or deep breathing can alter blood pH levels by causing respiratory alkalosis. This change in pH can affect neuronal excitability and potentially lead to altered states of consciousness.

There are two types of breathwork that can lead to mystical experiences:

Holotropic Breathwork

Holotropic Breathwork is a therapeutic approach developed by LSD psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, MD and his wife at the time, Christina Grof. It’s designed to explore non-ordinary states of consciousness through intense and accelerated breathing, curated music playlists, and support from trained facilitators. The term “holotropic” means “moving toward wholeness,” reflecting its aim to integrate different aspects of the self.

During a Holotropic Breathwork session, participants engage in deep, rhythmic breathing, which can lead to altered states of consciousness. The process typically involves several stages:

  1. Preparation: Participants discuss their intentions and concerns with facilitators.
  2. Breathing: Participants lie down and engage in rapid, deep breathing while listening to evocative music.
  3. Expression: This stage may involve spontaneous movements, sounds, or emotional releases.
  4. Integration: Participants create mandalas (geometric configuration of symbols) after the session and/or discuss their experiences with facilitators.

The practice is often used for self-exploration, healing, and personal growth. With this, it’s believed that it can access the unconscious mind, process unresolved issues, and promote spiritual or psychological healing. It’s essential to engage in Holotropic Breathwork with experienced and trained facilitators. This is recommended due to the potential for intense and emotionally charged experiences.

Wim Hof Breathing Exercise

The Wim Hof Method is a breathing technique and training method developed by Wim Hof, a Dutch athlete. He is known as “The Iceman” for his remarkable ability to withstand extremely cold temperatures. The method combines specific breathing patterns, cold exposure, and meditation to improve physical and mental well-being. Here’s an overview of the key components:

The foundation of the Wim Hof Method is a specific breathing technique. It typically involves the following steps:

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position where your belly can expand freely.
  • Take about 30 rapid, deep breaths. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
  • After the last exhalation, take a deep breath and exhale. Hold your breath for as long as you can.
  • When you can’t hold your breath any longer, take a deep inhalation and hold it for 15 seconds.
  • Exhale and resume normal breathing.

Be sure to either sit or lie down during the exercise. You may experience light-headedness which can affect your balance and put you at risk of falling or hurting yourself. You may also experience tingling sensations in your fingers and feet.

Wim Hof Method: Cold Exposure and Meditation

Wim Hof emphasizes cold exposure as a key part of his method. This involves taking cold showers, ice baths, or spending time in cold environments. Cold exposure is believed to enhance circulation, reduce inflammation, and increase the body’s tolerance to stress.

The Wim Hof Method includes meditation and mental focus techniques. Practitioners are encouraged to maintain a solid mental state during breathing exercises and cold exposure. This is seen as a way to build mental resilience and reduce stress.

The claimed benefits of the Wim Hof Method include enhanced creativity, improved sports performance, increased energy, better sleep, and improved immune function. Some people also report experiencing a sense of mental clarity, better focus, and well-being.

It’s important to note that while many people find this method beneficial, scientific research on its effectiveness is ongoing. Some studies suggest that the method can indeed influence the autonomic nervous system and immune response. That said, more research is needed to fully understand its potential health benefits.

If you’re interested in trying the Wim Hof Method, it’s recommended that you learn from certified instructors or official resources provided by Wim Hof to ensure that you practice it safely and effectively. The practice may not be suitable or appropriate for those with certain medical conditions.

Learn more about Breathwork as a Psychoactive Substance

Sensory Deprivation 

Sensory deprivation can lead to mystical experiences. This is primarily because it disrupts the normal sensory input our brains use to construct our perception of reality. Our brains rely on sensory inputs such as sight, sound, touch, and balance. They use these senses to build a coherent and accurate picture of the world around us. 

Mystical Experiences. An image of someone in the suggestion of a sensory deprivation tank. The image is blueish and dark, with some psychedelic patterns in the water.

When these sensory inputs are reduced or completely eliminated, the brain may start to generate its own sensory experiences (vivid mental imagery, sounds, or sensations) to compensate for the lack of external input. These experiences can be interpreted as hallucinations that seem real to the person undergoing sensory deprivation. 

There are different ways to experience sensory deprivation. Flotation or isolation tanks involve floating in a buoyant solution that matches body temperature. This creates a sensation of weightlessness. To create an environment of minimal sensory stimulation, the tank is soundproof and sealed so light cannot enter. 

An anechoic chamber is a room that is designed to eliminate all sound, echos, and magnetic waves. Using blindfolds or noise-canceling headphones can induce unique altered states and promote deep relaxation.

Sound Healing 

Music can lead to mystical and transcendent experiences. For instance, music has the power to bring out strong emotions. When a piece of music resonates with you on a deep emotional level, it can induce a sense of connection or oneness with the music and the surrounding environment.

Certain types of music, such as ambient or repetitive music, can alter your state of consciousness. Repetitive rhythms and melodies can lead to trance-like states—where the boundaries between the self and the external world become blurred.

Music affects the brain’s reward system by triggering the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and motivation. This can lead to feelings of euphoria and transcendence.

Music can synchronize brainwave activity. For example, drumming or rhythmic chanting in religious rituals can synchronize participants’ brainwaves, fostering a collective mystical experience.

Mystical experiences often involve a sense of profound insight or creativity. Music, especially improvisational or experimental genres, can enhance your creative thinking and problem-solving abilities.

Some music, particularly in practices like gong baths, is believed to have healing properties. The vibrational qualities of sound can stimulate relaxation and meditative states.

Music is frequently used as a background for guided meditation. These guided sessions can lead individuals through introspective journeys, fostering a mystical-like feeling.

Learn more about how music enhances therapy and deepens self-exploration in psychedelic journeys.

Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming is a state in which the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. In this state, they can often exert some level of control over the dream’s characters, narrative, or environment. 

This is a skill that requires practice. However, once you’re able to lucid dream, you have a unique opportunity to explore the depths of your subconscious mind. You could engage in a non-ordinary state of consciousness. 

Exploring Lucid Dreaming Techniques

Some tips to help you start lucid dreaming include the following:

  • Dream Journaling: Keep a dream journal by your bedside. As soon as you wake up, jot down your dreams. This helps you remember your dreams better and recognize recurring patterns or themes.
  • Regular Reality Checks: Throughout the day, ask yourself whether you are dreaming. Perform reality checks, like pinching your nose and trying to breathe (you can do this while awake). Eventually, this habit will transfer to your dreams, and you’ll perform the same check when dreaming.
  • Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD): Before you go to sleep, affirm to yourself that you will become aware that you’re dreaming. Visualize yourself becoming lucid in a dream. Repeat this affirmation as you fall asleep.
  • Wake-Back-to-Bed (WBTB) Method: Set an alarm to wake yourself up during the night. Ideally, set it for during the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep phase when dreams are most vivid. After you wake up, engage in a wakeful activity for about 30 minutes, like reading about lucid dreaming. Then, return to bed. This increases your chances of becoming lucid.
  • Set Clear Intentions: Throughout the day, remind yourself of your intention to have a lucid dream. The power of suggestion can play a significant role in becoming aware while dreaming.
  • Do Reality Checks in Dreams: As your practice progresses, you may naturally start doing reality checks in your dreams. Once you notice something unusual, like flying or meeting someone who has passed away, perform a reality check.
  • Stay Calm: When you become aware that you’re dreaming, stay calm. The excitement can wake you up. Instead, try to stabilize the dream by engaging your senses. For instance, touch the dream environment, smell the air, and listen to sounds.

Other Ways to Experience Connectedness Without Psychedelics

There are even more ways to feel more connected with the universe and experience a spiritual awakening. 

Nature Retreats

Spending time in nature—especially pristine and remote areas—can induce a sense of awe, connectedness, and oneness with the natural world.

Holistic Therapies 

Holistic healing practices like acupuncture, reiki, or shamanic healing can lead to transcendent or mystical experiences.

Prayer and Contemplation 

Engaging in deep prayer or contemplating philosophical or spiritual questions can lead to experiences of interconnectedness and unity.

Art and Creativity 

Immersing yourself in activities that allow you to express yourself can lead to creative flow states. From painting, drawing, writing, or playing music, these states can resemble mystical experiences.

It’s essential to remember that these experiences vary from person to person. What works for one individual might not work for another. It’s also crucial to approach these practices respectfully and cautiously, especially if you’re new to them. Additionally, consider consulting with experienced practitioners or professionals in some of these fields to guide your experiences safely.

Follow your Curiosity

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Psychedelics and Mystical Experiences

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Kundalini Yoga

Kaur, A. (2021, December 8). What are Kundalini Yoga Hallucinations and Why Do They Happen? Serpentine.


Zaccaro, A., Piarulli, A., Laurino, M., Garbella, E., Menicucci, D., Neri, B., & Gemignani, A. (2018). How breath-control can change your life: A systematic review on psycho-physiological correlates of slow breathing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12(353), 1–16.

Lalande, L., Bambling, M., King, R., & Lowe, R. (2011). Breathwork: An Additional Treatment Option for Depression and Anxiety? Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 42(2), 113–119.

Cleveland Clinic. (2022, April 22). What Is Holotropic Breathwork? Cleveland Clinic.

Sensory Deprivation

Mason, O. J., & Brady, F. (2009). The Psychotomimetic Effects of Short-Term Sensory Deprivation. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 197(10), 783–785.

Sound Healing 

Biasutti, M. (1990). Music ability and altered states of consciousness: an experimental study. International Journal of Psychosomatics: Official Publication of the International Psychosomatics Institute, 37(1–4), 82–85.

Ferreri, L., Mas-Herrero, E., Zatorre, R. J., Ripollés, P., Gomez-Andres, A., Alicart, H., Olivé, G., Marco-Pallarés, J., Antonijoan, R. M., Valle, M., Riba, J., & Rodriguez-Fornells, A. (2019). Dopamine modulates the reward experiences elicited by music. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(9), 3793–3798.

Bennett, E. (2021, January 26). Gong Baths for Relaxation, Meditation, and Stress Reduction. Healthline.

Lucid Dreaming

Pacheco, D. (2020, October 30). Lucid Dreams: Definition, Techniques, and Benefits. Sleep Foundation.

The content provided is for educational and informational purposes only and should be a substitute for medical or other professional advice. Articles are based on personal opinions, research, and experiences of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Psychedelic Support.

Published by:
Author: Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP
Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP
Katharine has over 15 years of experience working in British Columbia's healthcare system, leading patient safety incident investigations, quality and systems improvement projects, and change management initiatives within mental health, emergency health services, and women's health. She has published in scientific journals and co-authored health research books. Her bylines include Verywell Mind, CBC Parents, Family Education, Mamamia Australia, HuffPost Canada, and CafeMom. Check out her books at Sum (心,♡) on Sleeve.

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