Integration has become a bit of a buzzword in the psychedelic world the last few years and this subfield has been growing rapidly with whole systems, protocols and philosophies being devised and developed by individuals and organisations. The number of integration circles, events and workshops around the world is growing just as fast and you can find whole tracks of talks dedicated to psychedelic integration at international conferences and forums.
This topic is huge and I could write a whole series on integration (I plan to).
But, first, the basics:
What is psychedelic integration, exactly?
What does it mean to integrate psychedelic experiences?
To begin, a definition of what it means to integrate, non-psychedelically.
: to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole : unite.
So if to integrate is to make whole by bringing all parts together, psychedelic integration could be seen as unifying the psychedelic and non-psychedelic sides of someone. It is to harmonize how a person is – how they feel, think and act -when they are in a psychedelic state and when they aren’t.
A definition of entheogenic integration, from ERIE (Entheogenic Research Integration & Education):
N.B. Entheogen is another word for psychedelic substance.
If psychedelic experiences offer us opportunities to learn about how to live and what’s truly important, then integration is living in accordance with that wisdom, day to day, and not just thinking or theoretically understanding profound truths.
It’s becoming unified with those moments of deep insight and understanding that can be experienced on or after psychedelic journeys. Depending on your background, culture and worldview, these moments may also be referred to as epic realisations, insights, cosmic downloads, mystical revelations, receiving of divine wisdom, messages from God, ‘aha’ or ‘eureka’ moments.
“Strictly speaking, these drugs do not impart wisdom at all, any more than the microscope alone gives knowledge. They provide the raw materials of wisdom, and are useful to the extent that the individual can integrate what they reveal into the whole pattern of his behaviour and the whole system of his knowledge.”
Ingmar Gorman, speaking on the integration track at Psychedelic Science 2017, described integration with the following:
- Happens after an experience
- Reflection or understanding of one’s experience
- Merging of one’s experience with daily life
- Maintaining positive benefits
- Assisting with challenging or intrusive thoughts and feelings
- Navigating relationships
- It can be very ordinary
He also made the point that it is interdisciplinary (psychology, physical fitness, artistic expression etc.) and multi intentioned (healing, spiritual, personal growth).
Katherine Maclean, also on the integration track at Psychedelic Science referred to James Lore’s definition of integration:
“is a deliberative, active participation, as well as an allowing. Integration is a process of stepping into and trusting that meaning making is an ongoing ordinary human capacity that happens throughout your life.”
This quote hints at how integration is both an organic and deliberate process. Organically, some things may change without effort; thought patterns or behaviours, or maybe something that is harder to identify more than a general feeling of freshness and rejuvenation.
Deliberately is the active participation, and to willingly participate in the integration process, one must first affirm their insights and validate the importance of the experience, and not just brush it off as a ‘trip’ or ‘some drug experience’. This is where integration circles can be beneficial, or finding a community or others who understand and are open to hearing about a psychedelic experience. As well as hearing your story, friends and community can help with support and accountability.
Weaving the mystical with the practical
Insights may be affirmed and a belief that what was experienced or understood has real value beyond the trip. The session has revealed something that is deeply felt needs to be done or changed, but still, it doesn’t all come easy. Some insights can be challenging or uncomfortable, and so require more time, effort and conscious practice to act on and fully realise. This is where planning, structure, effort and support come in. Structured practices, system implementation and habit formation can be huge in this process, and I see this deliberate part of integration as having a large overlap with the fields of personal development and self improvement. I’ll continue on this theme in another post.
Thanks for reading.