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healing relationship psychedelics

For today’s closing post of this year’s PSYJuly, I would like to share my thoughts on an aspect of long-term psychedelic integration. That is, how we relate to psychedelics.

I think improving our relationship with psychedelics is a key but mostly unrecognised piece of long-term integration. This piece is more relevant for the long term practitioner because you don’t need to have a good relationship with a one night stand partner. For something longer term, you do. 

If you are someone who has some kind of ongoing practice of working with psychedelics, how do you relate to them? What do you think about them? When you talk about them with others, how do you feel?

Healing and Understanding

Many users of psychedelics have feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment tied into their use. This is usually due to social stigma, cultural perceptions and drug laws, and many people remain closeted about their use.

Whilst opening up to friends and family members can be healing in some cases, it isn’t always the best option. Keeping the psychedelic part of ourselves hidden from others may often be the most pragmatic course of action. 

To enjoy a really healthy relationship with psychedelics, however, it’s important to resolve any feelings of embarrassment and shame that we have around them.

Exploring the roots of these feelings can be done by journaling. Writing answers to some simple questions, such as ‘Why am I embarrassed? What do I feel ashamed of? Why am I keeping this hidden?’ can begin to bring more clarity, understanding and healing to the relationship.

Trust

Did you ever come out of a session feeling disappointed? Maybe you felt like it was a little bit of a letdown? I certainly have many times, and trust is something I have had to learn over time.

Trusting in psychedelics, the experiences they provide, and the insights they reveal, will bring about a more fruitful journey with them. Can you let go of the seeds of doubt in your mind? 

‘You don’t always get what you want, but you get what you need”
– Psychedelics

This can also mean trusting in the process. Maybe you didn’t get what you were hoping for from a session. You still have the option to trust that on some level it was what you needed at this point in your journey, and that it will make sense within the larger context of your journey. Leaning into trust will ultimately benefit you and your relationship with psychedelics.

Patience

Through engaging with psychedelics continuously over a number of years, one of the most valuable but also hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that of patience. This is intertwined with trusting that I am being given what I need when I need it, and that ultimately, where I am is where I need to be, not at some point further along where I think I’m supposed to be. This means being patient in allowing the unfolding of my own journey, letting it unravel in its own perfect time, without trying to push it.

psychedelic integration journey progress graph

Patience helps us allow ourselves to be where we are

An example of practicing patience would be in the integration process. Rather than trying to fix everything at once and improve all areas of your life simultaneously, realise that you are a human and have limits. It’s wisest to choose one or two key areas to focus on. As for all the other things, be patient, they will come in time. 

Respect

Psychedelics are incredibly powerful. They can can sit us on our ass, reducing us to babbling babies, and they can propel us to the far reaches of the universe to spaces we never even knew could exist. They can transform ourselves and the realities that we exist in, both inside and outside sessions. Psychedelics deserve y/our respect.

Gratitude

Practicing gratitude is one of the most powerful things we can do. I find it hard to express in words how much I love psychedelics. But beneath that, how grateful I am that they exist at all, and how incredibly fortunate I am to be in a position where I have access to them. Many people who would like to use them simply do not have the means, ability or access. There are people suffering from heavy depression, and others suffering with terminal cancer who are seeking access and are unable to receive it. I know because I’m contacted by these people and I do find the current reality around their access to be both upsetting and hard to accept. In those moments it’s again a chance to practice patience, and also gratitude for the privileged position that I find myself in.

Final thoughts

These are all overarching principles and lessons that I have received from psychedelics and I believe it’s a fitting response to reflect them back to the wonders which have bestowed these gifts upon me. 

I believe anyone wishing to work with psychedelics over the long term can benefit from establishing a relationship with psychedelics founded upon these core elements.

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Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful day!

learn how why to use psychedelics

I honestly believe that learning how to use psychedelics is one of the most useful skills one can learn.

You may have heard psychedelics being called a technology or a tool. They are sometimes referred to as a technology for exploration and growth. Beyond those more abstract terms, they can also be very practical in terms of personal and lifestyle change. For me, at this point in my life, they have been the most useful tool for personal development that I have come across. For many other people too.

Why doesn’t everyone spend time learning how to utilise this magnificent technology?

To me, not learning how to best utilise psychedelics to leverage positive change and improvement, is like not learning how to use computers, or the internet. Why would anyone deprive themselves of such a skill?

The technology can open doors that were never open before, it can open up possibilities that simply weren’t there. When it comes to using such remarkable technology, I believe investing some time and energy is absolutely worthwhile. 

What does it mean to learn how to use psychedelics?

There are certain ways of using psychedelics which can make them more useful, ways of using them which can increase the likelihood of bringing about desired results. One could call this, as Bill Richards does in Sacred Knowledge, ‘skilled use’. 

Learning to use psychedelics can mean both going deeper and broader. 

Broader means learning how to use them for different applications. Perhaps you’ve learned a particular method of use, with a specific purpose in mind. The purpose might be healing, creativity, or connecting with nature. The method might be a specific way of using them, such as the psychedelic therapy style method. Broadening would mean learning different methods, for a wider range of purposes.

Going deeper means learning how to use them more effectively. This includes careful consideration and utilisation of things like: intention, dose, ritual, music, preparation, navigation, set, setting, and integration. These might include tips, tricks and best practices. This also includes developing personalised methods and approaches that best suit different individuals. 

How to learn

Like almost anything, the best way to learn how to use psychedelics is through a combination of knowledge and practice. You read a manual or guide, then you have a go at using the technology based on what you’ve read. You incorporate what you’ve learnt from your own experience and factor it in next time. You might go back to the guidebook, or read other ones, and eventually you might experiment with things that aren’t in any manuals. Through continued education and practice, you develop your skills and approach.

Final thoughts

Psychedelics have catalysed many positive shifts and changes in my life. They introduced me to meditation, gave me a firm helping hand in going vegan, aided me in quitting smoking, and gave me courage to start a pioneering business. They’ve helped me make sense of a confusing world, embark on worldwide travels, heal from personal traumas, and find meaning and purpose in my existence.

What I find so incredible is that after many years of taking psychedelics, their gifts show no sign of running out. They continue to give. And I continue to learn from them. At ten years of beautiful relationship with these magnificent wonders, I am committed to going deeper, and learning even more. I invite you to join me.

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mushrooms how often should i trip psilocybin

‘How often should I take psychedelics?’

This is a question I am often asked. And of course, there is no single right answer. So instead of trying to give one, I’ll share my thoughts on the topic.

What is the right amount?

You can’t really put a number such as ‘x times per year or month’ and say ‘that’s the right amount’, because it totally depends on the person and their circumstances. It’s like asking ‘what’s the right dose?’. It can’t simply be answered in any meaningful way. It depends.

It depends on you, your intentions, and your current circumstances. Why are you taking psychedelics? Where are you at in your journey, and where do you want to go next?

If using psychedelics for recreation or leisure, it’s like asking ‘how often should I watch a movie?’. With the intention of using psychedelics for healing or growth, there still isn’t a set answer. For many people, it seems like once or twice a year is enough to gain valuable insights and allow time in between to integrate the lessons. For others, a more frequent pattern may be most beneficial. I’ve also heard of people saying that once in their lifetime was enough.

Frequency varies depending on culture

There is a variety of frequencies in different cultures and types of use around the world. This ranges from modern clinical use to more traditional shamanistic use.

Within the field of modern research and clinical trials, there is variation. In a study with people who suffered treatment resistant depression at Imperial College London, participants received two doses a week apart. From just two doses, most participants saw statistically significant improvement in their wellbeing. That said, many patients saw depressive symptoms beginning to return after six months, so it seems they could’ve benefitted from another session or two around this mark.

In various smoking cessation studies at Johns Hopkins University there have been between one and three doses given. People have successfully quit with one session, whilst others had three. It is note able that quit rates were higher for people who had more than one than one session.

With shaman of various Amazonian traditions, people drink ayahuasca on multiple consecutive nights, or on alternating nights. So it might be three or four nights of drinking ayahuasca in a row, or six nights of drinking over twelve nights total. There are also variations between. In some religious communities or churches that use psychedelic plants, groups drink monthly or weekly.

Philosophy professor Christopher Bache did 73 high dose sessions over 20 years, and as far as I know, no one in the psychedelic community has said it’s too much. In fact, he is seen as a courageous explorer and his work an incredible contribution to the field. He is a special case and was extremely conscientious in his use, I should add.

This variety shows that there is not really any standard which could be said ‘this is the right way’.

Can you take psychedelics too often?

When I would say taking psychedelics is too much is, the same as any other activity, when it starts interfering with one’s life in a negative way. When the downsides outweigh the upsides.

Gabor Mate’s view of an addiction can be useful here:

A behaviour which provides temporary pleasure or relief in the short term but has negative outcomes in the long term.

For some, psychedelics might be used as an escape from reality, or dealing with one’s problems. This can be known as spiritual bypassing. If one is re-entering journey space before or instead of integrating the lessons from the last journey, this could be seen as too soon.

However, I’d say that one’s problems can be shoved back in one’s face on a journey, so it’s not always an easy escape. In fact, for that reason, not taking psychedelics could be seen as an escape.

Is there a minimum frequency?

No one can say that someone should be taking psychedelics at least x amount of times per month or year. Although with medicalisation on the way, perhaps doctors or pharmacists will in fact be prescribing them in this way.

‘Go for three psilocybin journeys per month over the next 12 months and then we’ll meet back and reassess your treatment plan. If you feel you need a recalibration of your dose just give me a call and we’ll set up another consultation.”

I can see it already. But anyway, I digress.

Psychedelics can show us things that we are afraid to see and therefore unconsciously avoiding. Avoidance is no long term tactic to resolution, so for those that psychedelics have shown to be a useful tool for inner exploration and therapeutic shadow work, then there could be cases where it could be argued that someone should take them more often than they currently are.

The best amount and frequency is one that will bring the most healing over the long term. Knowing exactly what that is difficult. We like to have answers or steady plans we can follow, but in the case of psychedelics, it can’t be pinned down as such. It needs our own continued consideration and adjustment, as well as our honesty. It also depends on the doses we are taking.

When should I pick up the phone again?

You’ve probably heard the Alan Watts quote, ’When you get the message, hang up the phone’. This has been commonly interpreted to mean ‘don’t trip too often’. Once you have some useful information, act on it before seeking more. What I would add to that is, feel free to pick up the phone again to get a reminder of the message.

Oftentimes a psychedelic journey will make absolutely clear an insight to be acted on. Good progress can be made on integrating that insight in the weeks directly after whilst the insight is fresh. As time passes, however, the clarity and raw obviousness of that insight may fade. And though the insight may not have been 100% integrated yet, touching back in with ourselves on a journey can be a refreshing reminder. If meaningful change has been made, space will have been cleared in our psyche for other useful messages, insights, and ideas to pour in. Integration is a life long journey and our lives are imperfect, so aiming to have integration of an experience totally complete before journeying again can be unrealistic.

The common interpretation of Watts’ quote also doesn’t consider the question of what ‘the message’ is, or if there are different levels of understanding the message. Or even, if there are multiple messages to be received.

Final Thoughts

I see the advice that ‘one should not journey too often’ commonly put out there, yet most of the people I know in the psychedelic community have ample experience and have journeyed dozens of times themselves.

In general I think that most people could stand to benefit from more psychedelics sessions, rather than fewer. This is almost something of a faux-pas to say these days, but it’s what I believe, so I’m saying it. That is why the thoughts I have shared here have leaned towards illustrating this viewpoint, and not going into the dangers of overuse, which of course absolutely do exist. I should also make clear that I am talking about respectful, intentional, and careful use, done with the intention of learning or growth. Not flippant or casual use.

If we consider psychedelics to be teachers that allow us to access wisdom, what is wrong with visiting that teacher? Sure, you do not want to spend your whole life with that teacher, never stepping out of the classroom to practice your lessons. But likewise, you’d want to attend lessons to make the most of the wisdom they have to offer.

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This post was day 20 of PSYJuly 2021.

psychedelic surrender

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.
liberate psychedelics freedom

The first cage is the mind.

Psychedelics break the shackles. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is completely wrong. When you let go of every opinion, belief or conviction that you are consciously or unconsciously holding onto, you have the opportunity to finally be free.

From a blank slate, you have the possibility of consciously deciding which beliefs or frames you wish to adopt. You have agency in the perspectives you want to hold. Do you want to see reality from those that will support you, that are conducive to the life you want to lead?

Everything comes down to perspective at the end of the day. How we perceive reality comes down to the perspectives we take. Two different people in what looks like the same experience from the outside can be going through two totally different lived experiences. “Truth is subjectivity” as Kierkegaard once said, and there is no denying that our internal experience plays a central role in our experience of life and reality.

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Victor Frankl

As humans our ability to create meaning, to infuse it into our experiences, is what makes us unique. It’s what makes us who we truly are. Victor Frankl is someone who underwent an incredible atrocity, but yet still was able to find meaning, freedom, and purpose in his existence.

Psychedelics ability to enable us to see things from a new angle and offer a new perspective is ultimately their greatest power. It gives us a real chance to see difficulties or hardships from the past in a new light and find meaning and purpose in them. It also allows us to see new connections, sparking our creativity. 

“Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”
Terence McKenna

It’s almost a bad joke that we are not free to use these plants and substances which can help us find inner freedom. That we do not enjoy cognitive liberty. That people are locked in cages for their use or involvement with them. The fact that people have had their physical freedom taken from them is a gross injustice. I believe this to be a key civil rights issue of our time and with psychedelics’ ability to help us to see past division, to see our unity and interconnectedness, they can inform and accelerate other civil rights movements present in the world today. Understanding our connection with the planet, they can help our ecological awareness and movement too.

Freedom is something I believe we all ultimately strive for. With their power to break boundaries and burn down limiting beliefs, psychedelics allow us to believe in the impossible. They show us that the anything is possible. They allow us to dream. And for that reason psychedelics are the greatest tool that we have for freedom. And I believe in the freedom of psychedelics.

#liberatepsychedelics

liberate psychedelics freedom

Photo taken of a t-shirt from ICEERS, as part of their campaign to liberate plant teachers

This post is day 16 of PSYJuly