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rainforest steve pavlina lessons ayahuasca

Welcome back to PSYJuly, day 11!

Today we have a post from the legend and personal growth ambadassador, Steve Pavlina. Steve’s work has been a huge inspiration for me over the past two years and having spoken to him briefly about our psychedelic experiences on a zoom call earlier this year, I sent him an invite when setting up PSYJuly. I was delighted to receive his reply and welcome to share his lessons on ayahuasca. Enjoy 🙂

Hey! Would you like to take your psychedelic use to the next level?
I’m currently creating a course on psychedelics for intermediate users (no first timers, sorry!). If you are interested in taking part, please let me know your answers to a few questions you can find here. Thank you, and over to Steve…

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Last week I was in Costa Rica, engaging in four nights of ayahuasca ceremonies with a group of friends who invited me to share this experience with them. This was the first time I’ve taken ayahuasca. It’s illegal in the USA and most other countries, but it’s legal in Costa Rica.

Taking ayahuasca four nights in a row was physically challenging – nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and more – but I gained many insights from the alternative perspectives it provided. I actually count last week among the most cherished weeks of my life.

I took copious notes day by day to make it easier to remember the play by play of these experiences. I’d like to offer you this summary of the key lessons and insights I gained from this unusual deep dive. See if any of this resonates with you.

Gentleness

Be gentle with yourself and others. Gentleness is more powerful than toughness. When it feels like life is being too rough with you, simply say aloud to life: Please be gentler with me. Life tends to honor such requests. People will usually honor such requests as well. Asking for gentleness isn’t a sign of weakness. If you want life to be gentler with you, just ask.

Beauty

Look for the beauty within each person, knowing that everyone harbors intense beauty inside. People often hide their beauty, but each person’s beauty wants to be seen and acknowledged.

Share Love

Share your love with the world; don’t just share ideas and advice. Be more expressive of caring, kindness, and compassion. Your caring is beautiful. Stop hiding how much you care and what you care about.

Be Consciously Intentional

Reality responds powerfully to intentions. Consciously express your intentions, especially when you cannot envision the causal chain of actions to generate the desired result. Even when the response seems subtle or delayed, intentions always have an effect. Declare your intentions when you get up, while showering, while eating, while in the middle of an email or a conversation, and so on. Keep telling reality again and again what you desire to experience because reality is always listening. When you aren’t expressing intentions, reality assumes you’re intending to experience what you’re already experiencing, instead of something new or different. Don’t worry about being consistent in what you ask for. Just ask frequently – way more frequently than you think is prudent. You’ll receive a lot more of what you want if you ask, ask, ask. Asking 100 times a day isn’t too often.

Grow Towards the Light

Continue to pursue personal growth like a plant, always growing towards the light. Keep asking, Where is the light? Seek to grow in that direction. Keep intending: I’m growing towards the light. Life powerfully supports such intentions.

Artistic Expression

To become a better musician, don’t try to play music. Instead, try to play the beauty of the music. The same goes for other forms of artistic expression. Focus on the beauty of what you’re trying to share or express. Let the beauty play through you.

The Unknown

Growth that comes from exploring the edges of the known is typically incremental, safe, and predictable. To experience deeper and more profound transformations, invite and explore the unknown. There’s more potential – and fewer limits – in the realm of the mysterious. When you turn towards the unknown, more is possible. When you cling to the known, progress will be slower.

Connected Thoughts

No thoughts within our minds are truly compartmentalized. No memories, ideas, beliefs, attitudes, habits, addictions, feelings, hopes, dreams, or desires are sequestered in isolated storage. All neural patterns influence and communicate with each other in a perpetual dance of energy transfer. Consequently, to achieve a sense of wholeness and centeredness within, every repressed, rejected, or resented pattern of thought must eventually be forgiven, healed, and welcomed back into the fold. Even what you consider to be the very worst patterns within your mind are eager to be recognized and acknowledged as beautiful.

Oneness Across Time

Since past memories and future desires are still maintained as neural firing patterns in the present, achieving future improvement requires healing and upgrading your relationship with the past. For instance, an abundant future necessitates an abundant reframing of the past, such as recalling past challenges as lessons received with gratitude and appreciation. Any resentment of the past blocks future progress. Within the mind all neural patterns that represent time-based events (past, present, or future) are maintained in the present, and they all contribute to the same song. There is no mental separation of past, present, and future. Your relationships with events across all time periods all exist in the present. You can always create new intentions for healing and upgrading these relationships. Your relationships with all time periods are always with you, so make those relationships as good as they can be. They can be beautiful.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is way more powerful and transformational than you probably realize, especially forgiving yourself. There’s a deeper part of you (your soul, your spirit, or perhaps your higher self) that’s always ready to put its arm around you; invite you to face together your worst shame, guilt, or regret; and heal it with unconditional love, understanding, and forgiveness. This part of you is always available. It invites you to heal the unhealable and to forgive the unforgivable. Just ask: I invite my soul to help me heal ____.

Head and Heart

The head can never hope to win when the heart disagrees. The head is positioned as a student of the heart, seeking to study and understand it. It’s okay for such a student to be curious and questioning as long as there’s trust. When the head doesn’t trust the heart, the head will eventually generate enough problems to lead it back to the heart, usually out of desperation. When you experience such desperation (or its precursor, frustration), breathe into your heart until you feel centered there. Then ask your heart for guidance, and listen to your heart with your head – this time with more humility.

Being Imperturbable

Imagine being emotionally and energetically imperturbable, such that no events trigger you to feel anything other than what you consciously choose to invite in. How would your energy matrix need to be configured to be capable of accepting any input and still maintaining the integrity of its vibration unfazed? You’d be like pure black paint that can receive and absorb any light without glaring back. Whatever triggers exist that cause you to fall short of this standard are pointers to further growth. The next time you feel triggered, ask yourself what you’d have to release, reframe, forgive, or heal in order to render such a trigger powerless in the face of your imperturbable nature.

Causing Pain

Wherever you cause pain, you narrow the range of frequencies that you can perceive. You cannot hear and enjoy the beautiful song of that which you harm. Wherever you express caring, compassion, or kindness, you open up the frequency range, so the fullness of life’s symphony can be heard. Where do you sense you’re still causing pain or allowing wounds to remain unhealed? That’s where the most beautiful music is playing, but at best all you can perceive is a low hum. Life is playing a symphony of love, abundance, creativity, beauty, joy, and more. If you cannot hear that song each day, turn your attention to healing wherever you’re blocking it, which is wherever you’re causing pain.

Plants and Nature

Plants and nature are always unconditionally accepting of you. No matter what you endure in the world of humans, you can spend time in the presence of a plant or tree, which will always welcome and accept you. You can ask a plant to forgive you, and it will do so. When you invite and welcome the unconditional love of plants, you’ll find it easier to love and accept yourself, and so will other people. Remember that nature always provides you with an accessible floor of love, acceptance, and forgiveness, and this gift is here for you whenever you need it. No tree will ever decline a hug from you. When you cannot bring yourself to express love for anyone or anything, including yourself, you can still express love for a plant, and that’s all it takes to get the energy flowing again. Don’t underestimate how powerful this is.
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This was originally posted on Steve’s website here.

About Steve
Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of one of the most successful personal development websites in the world, stevepavlina.com, and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

tips advice psychedelic integration providers

If you are a psychedelic integration coach, provider or just interested in becoming one, this piece shares five best practices when providing services and helping others with their integration process. 

If integration is a new term to you, start here:

Here are the contents, I’ll expand on each point below.

  1. Understand What You Are Practicing
  2. Manage Expectations
  3. Don’t Be The Arbiter Of Truth
  4. Don’t Assume (You’ve Had The Same Experience)
  5. Seek Continued Development

Credits

Before beginning, I’d like to acknowledge that this piece is pulled from my notes from workshops, webinars and presentations on the topic. Primarily, from an excellent webinar on integration hosted by MAPS last summer which featured two people I consider leaders in the field: Marc Aixalà, and Ingmar Gorman. Some is also taken from a workshop with Ingmar at Insight Conference in Berlin last year. You can find out more about them at the bottom of this post.

Alright, let’s get into it!

1. Understand What You Are Practicing

Integration is a broad term and will look very different depending on a person’s needs. One factor in determining a person’s needs is when you see them in relation to their psychedelic experience.

ingmar psychedelic integration scale

In this scale from Ingmar, we see that there is the post acute psychedelic effect on the left end, and long term psychotherapy on the right.

The post acute psychedelic effect on the far left would be the hours and days directly following an experience, sometimes known as the ‘afterglow’ period, where as on the far right it would be a long term and ongoing therapeutic relationship. 

Working on a psychedelic retreat where you are with people directly after their experience, for example, will be on the far left of the scale. If you are conducting a follow up call two weeks later, you will be closer to the middle. If you are working with someone in an ongoing process over many months and years, you will be on the right side. 

Another factor to consider is how a person is doing following the experience: did it bring difficulties or benefits?

marc psychedelic integration scale

On this scale from Marc, we see the different ideas of what could constitute integration, from dealing with undesired effects (e.g. emergence of repressed traumatic memories) to maximising benefits (e.g. greater sense of peace, connectedness, more mental clarity).

Working on the left end of the scale requires more specialisation and looks more like a clinical practice, whereas further to the right could look more like coaching.

Knowing where you are practicing on these scales should inform your approach and help you to know what you are capable of doing. For example, for a therapist, empathy alone is not sufficient; a capacity to recognise what is happening with transference and countertransference and how to respond to that, is also necessary.

Although they can be combined, integration and psychotherapy could be very different processes, so be clear about which you are doing. Acknowledge your level of expertise and limitations, and be ready to refer when helping someone effectively is outside of your scope.

2. Manage Expectations

Psychedelics are getting hyped. Retreats are the new trend. Trips are the latest ‘cure all’. Stories of seemingly overnight change in the media are backed by incredible results from clinical studies.

A desire for fast change is fed by our cultural leanings to quick fixes and instant gratification and the idea of a ‘magic bullet’ is very appealing and draws many people to psychedelics.

Coming back to reality after a ceremony or retreat, and the realistic pace of change, can bring a surprising realisation that there is continued work to be done. 

The non-linear rate of improvement after an experience can fall short of people’s expectations, and this can lead to disappointment and frustration.

non linear progress integration

Falling back into old ways, as often happens on a path of growth, can also bring a sense of failure.

Handling these challenges can be handled well by managing expectations and bringing them to a realistic level.

Of course, hope is an important factor in the process.

So how does one manage expectations whilst maintaining a sense of hope?

It is very useful to first try to understand, what is their expectation of the outcome?

If expectations are high, then balance bringing them to a more realistic level with keeping a sense of optimism and hope.

10 Years of Therapy Insight

It’s often heard that psychedelic sessions are ‘like 10 years of therapy’ or ’10 years of transformation’. Sat next to me at Ingmar’s workshop in Berlin, Marlene Rupp of the excellent Sapiensoup put it perfectly in more real terms: ’10 years of insight’.

See Marlene’s talk at Beyond Psychedelics here:
How To Start A Psychedelic Integration Circle

Insight isn’t worth much until it is realised and actualised in the world; when it is integrated. There is a big difference between understanding a profound truth and embodying it. We could all read a quote from a text or book, but getting to the place of living in accordance with that wisdom is something else. This takes time and effort, something useful to recall in managing expectations.

A useful way of putting it that Marc shared is:

“You will have an experience.
That experience can be very useful, if you do something with it.”

3. Don’t Be The Arbiter Of Truth

It can be the case that a repressed or traumatic memory is recovered during a psychedelic session. For example, abuse from a family member.

In this scenario, the person who has experienced or re-experienced the memory may ask you if it is true, if it really happened.

Even if they don’t say it in words, they may in one way or another be fishing for a confirmation on the validity of their memory.

When it comes to recovered memories, the advice is simple: if you are in any way asked about their validity, do not confirm one way or the other.

The only correct answer you can give is ‘I don’t know’. A false confirmation one way or the other can have seriously negative consequences.

Worth mentioning here is Elizabeth Loftus and her groundbreaking work on false memories, including recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse – very interesting stuff for those inclined.

 

In general, be very careful when interpreting others’ experiences. This leads us nicely on to…

4. Don’t Assume (You’ve Had The Same Experience)

Someone comes to you who has recently had deep and powerful mushroom trip. Perfect, you’ve had many deep and powerful mushroom trips so you know exactly what they’re going through.

Not so fast.

Just because you’ve consumed the same substance as someone else, be it ayahuasca, truffles, acid or any other, it doesn’t mean that you’ve had the same experience. It doesn’t mean they were even remotely similar.

No matter how many similarities there may be, you can’t assume you’ve had the same experience. The width and variety of psychedelic (and life) experience should never be underestimated.

four agreements don miguel ruiz assumptions

That Don Miguel was on to something

Now of course, there can be similarities (and if so, great, because then your experience and learnings will be more easily translated to the other person). But if there are, then try to uncover them with non-directive questioning and patient listening, rather than assuming them from the start and then reaching them skewed by confirmation bias.

When it comes to asking questions, I personally try to take the approach of a non-judgemental exploration characterised by curiosity – seeing the interaction as a means to explore the person’s inner world alongside them. Rather than knowing and leading, trying to go deeper and uncover more.

As an integration coach, it isn’t necessary to share your own personal psychedelic experiences. After all, this isn’t about you. What is more important is that you let them know that you understand the challenges they are facing.

Be A Good Listener

On this point I think it’s useful to emphasize the importance of being a good listener. 

“There are three things you can do to help someone. The first is to listen. The second is to listen. The third is to listen some more.”

When you find yourself talking, WAIT.
That is, remember the acronym:
W. A. I. T.
Why Am I Talking?

wait acronym psychedelic therapy ingmar integration workshop

From Ingmar’s workshop at Insight Conference 2019

5. Seek Continued Development

Continued and sustained effort is fundamental to becoming great at anything. As Goenka would say; diligence, patience, and persistence.

dhamma dipa vipassana

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe the best way to learn comes from a combination of both study and practice, so read plenty, and seek practice where you can.

However, this final point is a tricky one. As psychedelic integration is a nascent field, there aren’t really any obvious ways to go about further development. By contrast, if you want to become a psychotherapist, for example, there are some pretty clear roadmaps to do so. How to become an integration provider on the other hand, isn’t so clear.

Globally, our only long standing traditions around using psychedelics have survived through indigenous cultures – e.g. Native American Indians, Amazonian tribes – where practice has never been totally discontinued and knowledge around practices has been passed down through ancestral lineage.

Because of the preservation of practices in those cultures, experiences are naturally integrated in to their communities. For this reason, they don’t really have models for integration that are applicable to us in the West. Here, psychedelics have only recently begun to emerge as a tool for awareness, growth and therapeutic application, and as such are not integrated in our society.

Though we currently lack these systems, they are on the way. In the meantime, seek education and practice where you can; go to workshops, start a circle, learn in related areas e.g. breathwork, mindfulness, support group and community building. Marc gave a couple hints: become a good listener, and become a good therapist in whatever school you’re comfortable in.

You can find some useful and related resources in this post:

If you have any further tips, resources, or ideas, feel free to get in contact.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

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Resources & Credit:

As promised above, here is more information on Marc and Ingmar. I’ve been lucky enough to attend in person workshops with both, a tripsitting workshop in 2017 by Marc in Copenhagen and an integration one with Ingmar last year in my home city of Berlin. They both have a lot of experience in the field and I’d recommend both as good sources of information. 

Marc Aixalà is an engineer, psychologist, psychotherapist and certified Holotropic Breathwork facilitator, specialized in supporting people who face challenging situations after experiencing non-ordinary states of consciousness. He coordinates support and integration services at ICEERS. You can find out more about ICEERS here.

Ingmar Gorman is a psychologist who specializes in assisting populations who have had experiences with psychedelics and other psychoactive compounds. He is director of the Psychedelic Education and Continuing Care Program, and co-founder of Fluence.

dennis mckenna conference

Last year I was lucky enough to meet the legendary Dennis McKenna at the World Ayahuasca Conference. As a huge and long time fan of his, it was truly a great moment in my journey in the psychedelic world.

So, in the presence of one of the most influential figures in the psychedelic world, what question did I ask?

Well, Dennis said it was a good question (yeah!) and didn’t disappoint with his answer.

You can hear my question and Dennis’ answer in the video below.

Video credit: Kate Kifa.

Thanks to ICEERS for organising such a great conference and granting me access to the media room.

P.S.
If you are looking for a great psychedelic book, check out The Brotherhood Of The Screaming Abyss. Absolutely one of my favourite psychedelic books, it is Dennis’ account of an incredible story.

He honestly shares mistakes he’s made on his journey and tells tales with refreshing humour. It includes great chapters on Eliade and Jung, and is notably interesting in its documentation of how the psychedelic movement has developed in the West since the 60s.
Go, read!

ozora festival

Rausch is a documentary series by photographer Robert Funke which chronicles the present day use of psychoactive substances in society. Through Rausch, German for intoxication, Robert explores the myriad uses and settings of drug ingestion, including scientific, spiritual, therapeutic and recreational, and a wide range of substances, from LSD and other psychedelics to alcohol, heroin and cocaine.

imperial college london lsd psychedelic

Redecorated hospital room used in LSD studies at Imperial College London.

Rob has been collecting these photos over the last few years and I find the series provides great insight in to the relationship humanity has with drugs and altered states of consciousness. Drug use is as old as civilisation itself and this series explores the topic widely, offering a broad perspective of what can be considered ‘drug use’. Rausch also gives us an opportunity to visually visit some striking and surprising, lesser known settings.

I first met Robert online, and through an unwinding course of events, we are now flatmates and good friends. It brings me great pleasure to be able to present his work here on Maps Of The Mind.

In this post I present a just a few of my favourites. You can find the full collection on his website.

Enjoy the exploration.

santo daime ceremony ayahuasca

Santo Daime church ceremony in Germany’s Harz region. The sacrament of this syncretic religious community is Ayahuasca, a brew made out of psychoactive rainforest plants. The potion is used during fixed rituals for divine experiences, to heal and to strengthen the community.​​​​​​​

ozora festival

Goa-Festivals, like the OZORA in Hungary, are comparable to huge trance-rituals. Music and decoration imitate the neurologic effects of LSD. After hours of dancing to monotonous rhythm in combination with psychedelic substances, people get into a trance-like state.

imperial college london lsd psychedelic study

Another of the redecorated hospital room used in LSD studies at Imperial College London. This is where for the first time computer tomography scans were used to record brain activity while under the influence of LSD, and the impacts of music on therapy were investigated.​​​​​​​

poland therapist 2cb mescaline mdma

In Poland a group meet with the intention of using psychoactive substances therapeutically. Under the supervision of therapists, doctors and experienced attendants, they take Mescaline, MDMA and 2-CB on two consecutive evenings.​​​​​​​

maastricht university brain scan psilocybin

The active compound psilocybin, which occurs naturally in psychedelic mushrooms, is being researched at Maastricht University. Brain scans and cognitive tests are used to find out whether this substance can boost creativity and help change learned behavior patterns.​​​​​​​

You can see the rest of the collection here and more of Robert’s work at robertfunke.com
You can also find him on instagram.

psykedelisk symposium psychedelic symposium copenhagen

psykedelisk symposium psychedelic symposium copenhagen

On a recent mild weekend in Denmark I went to a psychedelic conference in the country’s coastal capital. Held in a sleek and modern building on the city’s metropolitan university campus, it turned out to be a hugely impressive event. Something that struck me early on was how well organised everything was – I guess a part of me was expecting stoned hippies in tie-dye shirts to be running the thing. Though I’m sure that would’ve been fun in its own way, that was absolutely not the case. It was an excellently organised and professional event put on by the psychedelic society of Denmark: clearly a smart and competent group of individuals that understand the value of these stigmatized substances.

psychedelics conference denmark merchandise stand

The atmosphere around the building and in the main hall was of an almost tangible positivity and you could tell everyone was excited to be there. It was awesome to connect with others who share an interest in psychedelics and being around so many like-minded people made me feel that I’m part of something much bigger. A pretty good feeling.

lsd magic mushrooms mescaline dmt flyers

There were workshops on tripsitting and integration on the Friday and the main conference was held over the weekend with two full days of presentations on subjects ranging from neuroscience to psychotherapy to social ecology.

Serious Work Is Being Done

There was a moment I enjoyed on the second morning when an older lady asked me if I was a scientist. I smiled and said “well, I do conduct experiments.” It turns out I’m not the only one. There are like, actual scientists doing (slightly more rigorous) experiments and clinical trials with these substances and writing papers and PHDs on them. And there are a lot of them.

psychedelic plants presentation

Pharmacologist Jordi Riba

Nearly all of the presentations were done by scientists and researchers from  a diverse range of fields and while the research into how psychedelics can be used to treat mental illness is currently getting the most attention, there is plenty more going on. I enjoyed one talk about how the type of hallucinogen present in a culture might influence its prevailing religious beliefs – especially thought-provoking when we consider today’s most popular drugs. There was another interesting one in which pharmacologist Jordi Riba presented his findings that suggest the alkaloids of the plant source of ayahuasca stimulate adult neurogenesis. I should mention that he did also note that aerobic exercise also does this, so if you fancy growing your brain and aren’t quite up for a massive psychedelic trip in the jungle, you can just go for a run. Slightly less intimidating.

Science Is Leading The Movement

Today science is a door to credibility. Open any statement with ‘well, studies have shown that…’ and you’re guaranteed to have your point considered more seriously. As psychedelics gain more attention its clear that many leaders within the movement know this. They don’t want to see mistakes made in the 60’s made again and are very conscious of public perception. Hence the amount of scientists and academics giving presentations. In a panel debate at the end of the first day, neuroscientist Robin Carhart-Harris used the word ‘hippies’ more than once and its clear that he doesn’t want to be labelled one. He wants the respect that comes with science and he’s not alone in wanting that respect to be extended to psychedelics.

Robin Carhart-Harris psychedelic brain presentation

Robin Carhart-Harris

I do think there should be room for non-science based discussion too though. On looking through the program ahead of the first day I saw a presentation with an intriguing title – ‘Psychedelic Pleasures: An effective understanding of the joys of tripping’. I read it to my friend and he smiled. “That’s more like it. All this science can miss the point.” The talk turned out to be steeped in science and methodology and disappointingly, not very fun at all.

Whilst all the scientific research is important to the wider perception of psychedelics, I think it’s important to remember that technical understanding has its limits. Sure, science has granted us incredible advancements in medicine and technology, but alone it doesn’t have all the answers. Technology has isolated people, globalisation has fragmented communities, and if we look at where all this technical, rational understanding has landed us today we see a world with increasing rates of mental illness in the midst of an ecological crisis. I think we can go a little too heavy on the science at times and there should be room for other types of understanding too.

Small Event In A Big Year

2017 has been a big year for the psychedelic movement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designating MDMA as a breakthrough therapy for PTSD in August, and much larger conferences like Psychedelic Science, Breaking Convention, and The International Transpersonal Conference taking place in California, London and Prague. Whilst the gathering in Copenhagen was a modest affair compared to those events, it still gave me a sense of how big the movement is and how fast its growing.

psychedelic presentation meditation

I appreciated the relatively small size as it meant that I had the opportunity to talk with some of those presenting. It was interesting to hear neuroscientist Mendel Kaelen (who you may be familiar with from this VICE article) talk about how he considers ‘hope’ to be a crucial aspect of music in a session, and speaking to Jordi Riba, I found out why I can drink cup after cup of ayahuasca without any real effect (turns out I’m not a beast of resistance, it’s more likely that my body just metabolizes certain enzymes very quickly). Whilst it’s possible to find out almost anything online, nothing replaces those in person connections.

Overall the conference was equal parts enjoyable and eye-opening and the cornerstone of an inspiring week in Copenhagen. I think I might make this an annual trip. See you at the next one.

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If you enjoyed this you might also wanna check out:
7 Remarkable Things I Learned At Psychedelic Science 2017 – by Aaron at Freedom & Fulfilment