Welcome to PSYJuly day 17!
Today we have a post from Kerrie O’ Reilly from A Whole New High, retreat in the Netherlands. In today’s post, Kerrie looks at one of the ultimate tenets of psychedelic navigation: surrender…

Psychedelic Surrender

“You just need to surrender”
Have you heard this before? This is probably the most common piece of advice I hear truly well meaning psychedelic explorers offer friends and first timers as they prepare to embark on their next or first ever psychedelic experience. I too received this advice myself at the beginning of my own journey with medicines. 

Many of our clients who come to work with us have been told this. They are both confused and terrified by what “just surrendering” may entail. Why? Well because there isn’t always an explanation included about what surrendering actually means, and more importantly guidance on how to do it…. 

Surrendering to the medicine and to the experience can often be understood as letting absolutely everything go, your identity, your awareness of who you are, your body, your sense of control. And it’s true, letting go of some or all of these things is to surrender, and if that feels good to you, this can be an incredibly beautiful and life changing experience to have. However in order to drop into a psychedelic journey it is by no means a requirement to completely let go of yourself. Nor is it always helpful to “try” to achieve this. 

The expectation we can put on ourselves to fully let go can be terrifying. It can cause the parts of us who do not feel safe to release all control, for incredibly valid reasons of it being unsafe to do so in our past, to feel the need to hold on even tighter in order to protect us when we do enter the experience. This can cause more resistance and potentially even an inability to sink into the journey that awaits us. Developing inner trust is what makes letting go a natural and spontaneous process. This comes by creating inner safety through respecting and honouring what is best for us in any given moment, which can often be something entirely different to what the mind may want or think it should do. Tuning into ourselves and our needs and fulfilling these needs nurtures that trust and our relationship within.  

Surrendering can ask so much less of us than a complete release of self or control. How I like to explain surrender is to simply be with what is in any given moment without trying to change it. So what does that look like on a practical level?

Lets say I’ve just taken the medicine and my mind has realised there is no turning back. I’ve begun the process now and I’ve no idea what’s going to happen. Suddenly my excitement has turned to fear. To surrender to this moment using my explanation above is to simply notice I’m super scared right now and thats ok. It is to let the fear in me be there and for me to be there with it, without trying to change it, get rid of it or push it away and to recognise it’s validity. It’s human nature to feel fear when we have no knowing of what’s ahead. This can be scary to anyone, its incredibly natural to feel scared in such a circumstance. So honouring this, rather than trying to push it away or denying it, and allowing the fear to be there while validating yourself in it. This is the exhale into surrender. 

After doing this I may feel more relaxed, my body has just been trusted, recognised and validated and may have softened a little. Sinking into this feeling of relaxation, allowing myself to feel it, trusting it, being with it, inviting it to be there, I have once again surrendered, we can surrender to comfortable feelings too.  

As the journey progresses I may suddenly feel very cold, I may even shiver. I can lean into the feeling I am having of being cold without judgement, being with myself and recognising this feeling. Noticing what it feels like in my body, noticing the discomfort of it, inviting the emotion it is creating in me to be seen. I may ask for an extra blanket, not in an effort to get rid of the feeling but rather supporting and comforting myself through it – any or all of these reactions is being with what is while in acceptance of it, and this allows me to drop deeper into surrender. 

Next the person beside me may be coughing and shuffling from side to side around their mattress, they can’t seem to settle, it’s really annoying me. Ugggghhhhh, I may think…… “They’ve taken me out of my experience”. Resistance would sound like “I shouldn’t be so insensitive and self-involved, maybe they’re going through something really challenging, I should just be able to allow this to be, like a meditation practice”. 

To surrender, however, is to allow myself to be angry in this moment and to feel the anger in my body while detaching from the moment that triggered it. I can use such moments as leads to bring me towards what’s unresolved inside me as opposed to seeing these triggers as the source of the anger or the emotion itself. By dropping back into my body, into my feeling state, I am surrendering to what life is providing for me, I’m surrendering to myself and I’m surrendering to the medicine. 

As feelings arise and I allow them to be without judgement, I’m surrendering deeper and deeper into the experience, deeper and deeper into myself.  I have not tried to let go of myself or surrender completely, I have simply taken one small step after another to surrender to what each moment has brought me. I created inner safety and from this place, my mind surrendered to me. Like drifting off to sleep my mind becomes less and less present, less active, until the journey and I are one. I am in a state of being, a state of trust of myself, of my emotions, of the medicine, and from this place I can experience my higher self, the divine. I have accessed a portal into the wisdom of my being, of life and of the magic of the medicine.
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About Kerrie

Kerrie O’ Reilly is the co-founder of A Whole New High, a Trauma Integration Therapist working with clients both with and without psychedelics for 15 years, Artist and Writer. A Whole New High are a resource for Psychedelic Awareness and Therapy and have been at the forefront of the psychedelic movement offering private and group retreats where they combine therapeutic tools with the psychedelic experience. Integration, emotional and physical safety, and creating healthy behavioural patterns and relationships after the experience itself are some of their primary focuses.