This is k-space: Evocative music accompanies a twilight journey through landscapes of the mind… floating on a long voyage downstream through canyons, under towering cliffs, over rises of molten rock, through the depths of the sea and the starscapes of space. Faces loom and turn away or dissolve; some are familiar, and some are not. Some are reminiscent of the great statues of the kings overlooking the River Anduin in Middle Earth; some are weird aliens; some are family members. Soon the music gives way to another kind of song, the songs of blue and humpback whales. Spirit guides for the journey? More and more it has seemed that way. They are never seen but only heard, and sometimes their watery sounds give rise to the most unwatery of images.
The images are not the DayGlo posters of psychedelic space as I had imagined it, but vastly more subdued. I’m not even sure they can be called visions I have seen so much as images of the mind. Still, with practice, they have grown steadily more real. They range from near-photographic images of my childhood to SF art landscapes to Rorschach patterns and works of abstract expressionism.
This is not the k-space of interstellar travel, as described in my novel From a Changeling Star. Rather, it is the k-space of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, or KAP. The home base: a couch, sometimes at my therapist’s office but usually at home, complete with blindfolds over my eyes, McDuff the dog (fellow traveler!) at my feet, a carefully curated playlist, and my watcher/transcriber seated nearby, taking down my thoughts and observations. The medium of interdimensional travel: prescribed ketamine, in the form of dissolvable lozenges. The goal: to acquire glimpses into the black box of my subconscious.
I’ve been doing this on and off for several months now—but for the last six weeks or so, almost weekly. Afterward, I write it up, for my own recall as well as for discussion with my therapist.
Ketamine (long used as an anesthetic) has seen growing use lately as a useful adjunct to psychotherapy, most notably in the treatment of depression. A family member had found it extremely useful in this regard, prior to my giving it a try as a treatment for creative block. My doses are produced by a local compounding pharmacy. I had to jump through all kinds of hoops to get medical clearance, in view of my pulmonary fibrosis. It does not seem to cause any issues.
It’s been a fascinating experience, although the first couple of sessions were disappointing, with little seeming to happen, either during or following. But gradually, perhaps because I was learning to relax into the experience, I began to see and hear more, and each session offered something different. Verbal prompts sometimes kick the experience in useful directions. The first handful of times, I was basically along for the ride, not saying much of anything, just trying to absorb whatever the journey had to offer. I was seeing images in multiplex, as though in several floating video windows. After a while, I thought, Why can’t I see this in full-screen? No sooner had I thought the wish than the image opened up to full Omnimax.
Most recently, I went interactive, talking about everything I saw, and even engaging in dialogue with some of the sensations. “What’s that, whales? Are you confused? Me, too. I need to learn your vocabulary…” Along with the interaction came an increase in emotional connection to what was previously a mostly intellectual observation. Connection is, I think, the key word for what I felt. I was teasing loose threads of emotion. I came out of that journey feeling energized and hopeful.
I said earlier that the goal of this was to acquire glimpses into the black box of my subconscious, with the ultimate goal to release blocked creativity. Am I doing that? I hope so. I’m at least shooting a current through that stubborn box.
On coming out at the end of one sojourn, I lifted the blindfolds to see a bristly looking alien creature peering at me from the foot of the sofa. I took a photo, but the wily creature manipulated the image to look like a Terran dog!