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psychedelic integration preparation best activities journal write

When it comes to learning and growing from our psychedelic experiences, we need to do more than simply take the substances and expect all the magic to happen.

We need to utilise other methods in our preparation and our integration for these experiences.

Different methods can help set us up for insightful experiences, and then maximise benefits and keep us on a path of learning and growth. There are many, and some popular ones include: mindfulness, yoga, breathwork, and nature immersion.

Another one of the big boys is journaling. 

This is because journaling can help with self-reflection, emotional processing, and integrating insights.

As such, journaling is one of the best things one can do to support their psychedelic-assisted growth. 

So, how does it work? What are the benefits? And how can you get started today?

In this blog post, I will be talking about the benefits of journaling and how they work synergistically with psychedelic processes. Then I will be offering you a few different journaling methods to support your psychedelic-assisted growth. I will also add a few tips on each so that you can start journaling today.

My intention with this blog post is to highlight the benefits of journaling in the hopes that you might be inspired to try it yourself and to give you some concrete examples of things that you can do so you can get started today.

Let’s dive in.

psychedelic integration preparation best activities journal write

Benefits of Journaling and Psychedelic Processes

Writing pen to paper forces us to slow down. Simply by taking the time to write out our thoughts and feelings, journaling offers us the chance to be aware of what makes up our inner world. We can see things from inside ourselves, quite literally, on the paper in front of us, giving us an increased awareness of them. And with that, we also have an opportunity to reflect on them. 

By allowing us to see what is on our minds and gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, journaling might even be considered psychedelic if we are going by the literal meaning of the word: mind-revealing. 

As such, it is an excellent tool to synergise with our actual psychedelic experiences. 

Journaling can be a way to integrate a more reflective and aware way of being in our days—what we might call a psychedelic way of life. It also helps clear the mind—like mental decluttering—and has been shown to have emotional effects such as reducing anxiety. Both of these effects are also going to be beneficial when we are in the preparation stage of our psychedelic experiences.

After our experiences, journaling can help us in our integration as well. Beyond documenting them, writing about our experiences gives us a chance to further unpack them, dig out insights,  and solidify them. With insights unpacked, we also have an opportunity to make plans and move forward in the integration process.

To summarise, some of the benefits of journaling related to psychedelic use include:

  • Promotes self-awareness
  • Enhances awareness of thoughts and feelings
  • Provides opportunities for reflection
  • Aids in clearing the mind and reducing anxiety
  • Helps in planning sessions and logistical details
  • Assists in documenting experiences and unpacking insights
  • Facilitates integration of insights
  • Facilitates further reflection and planning for integration

Journaling Methods to Support Psychedelic Processes

Ready to start journaling?

Here are a few different styles of journaling that you can try today.

1. Free Writing (Basic Journaling)

This is the most basic. In the simplest terms; put pen to paper and start writing.

To gain a better understanding of yourself and your emotions, try not to focus only on things that you have done or things that you see, but write about your thoughts and your feelings.

Write about what is on your mind and use that as a starting point to write further reflections and observations.

Write about your feelings. You can write about your feelings in the moment or in different situations or significant moments in your day or life. You can write about any instances where certain feelings were triggered. 

And it is as simple as that. It does not matter if what you write is petty. It does not matter if it seems boring or nothing special. Just the process of writing will help get things out and that process will help you to reflect and introspect.

One way of incorporating this method is the morning pages. The morning pages, as originally described in The Artist’s Way—Julia Cameron’s classic book on creativity— are three full A4 pages of longhand journaling each morning. Again, about anything. Just get pen to paper and write until you fill the pages.

I have found this three full pages method to be an extremely useful practice. If I have something niggling away at me or I feel like I have too many things on my mind, I find that taking time to sit down and write my thoughts out is extremely clarifying, improves my emotional state, and gives me some actionable items to move forward.

Tips for starting a free writing journaling practice: 

  • Get a nice pen and journal or pad that feels nice to write with. This will help make the process more enjoyable.
  • Keep the journal private so that you know that it is a safe space for you to be able to fully express yourself without fear of judgement or any kind of repercussion from anyone else.
  • Remember to write your thoughts and feelings, not just objective facts.
  • It can be helpful to ask yourself questions. Think about questions that a coach or therapist would ask you. Or use them to direct them back to your values.

2. Writing Letters

Often, the difficulties or problems we have in our lives come from our relationships. As social creatures who have evolved with the need to successfully socially engage to survive, it is no surprise that relationships can be the source of difficult emotions.

Sometimes in our psychedelic experiences, insights may come to us about our relationships with others. Or it might be the case that our intention for an experience is a relational issue that we are looking to process emotions around and resolve.

Writing letters to other people can be hugely helpful in supporting these processes.

The beauty of the exercise of writing letters to other people is that you have a safe space to express your emotions without necessarily having to send those letters to the people you are writing them to. 

Just the process of writing letters can help us to become more aware of our feelings and offer a lot of therapeutic value. This can be done both in preparation and integration of an experience, depending on where it is most relevant for each person. In both cases, it can again help to process emotions and gain mental clarity. 

Tips for Writing Letters to Others

  • It is usually most useful to focus on people you have some difficult emotions around.
  • Be completely uncensored. If there is anger, if there is pain, if there is frustration, allow yourself to feel it, and express it in the letter. Remember, you do not need to send it to them. Just let it out, and put it down on paper. 
  • If you decide that it would be good to send the letter or message you have written, you might like to make some revisions. Go back once the heat is off and think about your wording and how you would like to communicate. You might consider something like non-violent communication.
  • Consider using the following questions as prompts for your letter: What would you really like to say to them? What would you like them to know? If you were going to die next week, what should not be left unsaid?
  • If you want to share anything from your letter in person, you can use a bulleted version of your letter for reference.

3. Writing Letters to Self

Writing letters to yourself can also be a very useful exercise.

By somewhat externalising ourselves and seeing ourselves as another person, we can get a different perspective on our problems and a new level of awareness around them.

Often it is hard for us to have perspective on our own problems because we are too close to them. It can be the case that if somebody else were to come to us with our problems  —the exact same ones—we could easily dole out the perfect advice and tell them what to do.

As the quote goes:
“Wisdom is the ability to take your own advice.”

Letters to self can also be a means of exploring your inner dialogue by writing letters to different aspects of yourself—for example, the inner child, the inner critic and your higher self. This way of seeing ourselves as made up of many separate selves or parts, and communicating with them, is fundamentally the same as popular and effective psychological techniques used in parts work and Internal Family Systems

Letters can also be written to our past and future selves. This can give you a chance to reflect on your journey and to look forward. 

Tips for Writing Letters To Yourself

  • When writing a letter to your present self, try imagining it is a good friend. Consider: What do they (you) need to hear right now? What advice, encouragement or support would you offer to someone in your situation at this moment? 
  • If writing a letter to your future self, express your hopes, dreams and intentions.
  • When writing to different parts of yourself, such as your inner critic, consider making the letter a dialogue. Ask the part what it wants and write responses from it. 

Trip Reports

Writing trip reports is, I would argue, an essential aspect of integrating psychedelic experiences. I would not say that everyone needs to do it, but I will say that most people would likely benefit from doing it.

Firstly, trip reports are great for documenting your experiences and your journey over time. Beyond that, the process of writing them offers a chance to revisit and remember the experience, refresh the memory, and consolidate it further, along with any insights and lessons. 

Writing reports also offers a chance for further emotional processing. It is not uncommon that I will be brought back to tears when I am re-listening to the playlist and writing up my report.

Tips for Writing Trip Reports

  • Start with basic objective details: setting, dosage, people present, time of the session, etc. 
  • Write an open-ended report about your subjective experiences. Write about thoughts, feelings and perceptions.
  • Allow yourself the freedom to further reflect and riff on anything that comes up.
  • If you listened to music during your experience, try listening to the same music again when you are writing your report. It can be extremely effective in taking you back to the experience.

Final Notes and Tips

I hope this gives you some ideas and concrete examples of ways that you use journaling. However, it is not always easy to get started. Common barriers to journaling include perfectionism, self-censorship, or lack of time. To combat these, I will finish with some final tips:

  • Allow your journaling to be imperfect. Allow it to be rubbish.
  • You do not need to read your entries back. Remember that by putting pen to paper, you are doing it. The process itself will be helpful. 
  • Allow yourself freedom of expression. When you are writing, do not think about sharing your deepest feelings or forbidden thoughts with anyone else. Keep your journal a free space where you can say absolutely anything
  • Start small. Try to find the time in your daily, weekly, or monthly routine when you can do it. 

Final Thoughts

Journaling can increase self-awareness, improve emotional states, and facilitate introspection and reflection. For these reasons, it can be a great synergistic practice to pair with intentional and growth-oriented psychedelic exploration.

I have found journaling to be one of the most transformational and supportive practices to use alongside psychedelics, helping to bring about more valuable and beneficial experiences and also aiding in their integration. 

I hope this post has inspired you to try journaling and given you some useful prompts to get started today.

Stay safe. Keep journaling.

This post is following on from 30 Day Writing Challenge Review.

Many things helped me to make it through my way of publishing 30 times in 30 days, and today I’ll continue to share a few more.

Connecting to something bigger

At times of difficulty when I encountered a resistance to hit publish I returned to my why. It was a personal challenge, but personal only in so far as that I want to improve my ability to write and put out content so that ultimately I am more able to spread knowledge and information about psychedelics and to share ideas that I believe can be useful to other people. So when I had doubts I returned to the thought of ‘this is about much more than you’. This helped me to get over myself and think about the people my writing could reach and help. My feelings about how I might come across or how nice my writing is to read took a back seat to the primary aim of getting that information and those ideas out there into the world. This made it a whole lot easier to not get overly concerned with editing.

Knowing that it’s about more than myself was very helpful as those difficult feelings that I encountered were in the end just my personal difficulties. If I want to actually play my part in something bigger and contribute to the world in a meaningful way then I’m gonna have to get over myself.

Before the month I made a small reminder card with an image of the world and a heart that I now keep over my desk. This was to connect to the bigger picture of love and all those lives of the people around the world to help drive me on in times of difficulty.

Inspiring Material

I read Steven Pressfield’s Do The Work before and during the month on a timely recommendation from a friend. I think I’ve blown Pressfield’s trumpet enough on this blog by now for you to get it that his work speaks to me. One thing that stuck out from this work was that doing research can become a form of Resistance and procrastination. So for this month I actually did zero research for any of the articles. I referenced other materials and websites, but only ones that I was already aware of or had in mind that I could use. Aside from being hugely practical in terms of saving time, this was nice in that it was a good chance to test myself and my knowledge of psychedelics and it felt really good to keep churning stuff out without looking at what others had to say on the topic. It has been a great confidence boost for me and I feel way more ready to embark on creative challenges without spending so much time doing prep and just coming up with things on the spot. This is something I’d like to explore more in the future with workshops and talks and have more confidence in myself to do this than before.

Rituals & Routines

I had a few rituals and routines which helped me throughout the month. Here are a few:

Waking up early

I am a fan of a strong morning routine. In July I would wake up around 6, drink a glass of hot lemon water and stretch, take a cold shower, meditate, walk once around the block and then eat breakfast before settling down to begin writing. Having such a consistent routine with an early start was definitely helpful.

The 6AM start did go out the window after my accident as I had difficulty sleeping due to the pain in my arm, but I did get back to early rising once I was able to sleep well.

Fiery Music

Music was a huge help on days when I felt tired or low on inspiration. On most mornings during my short morning walk I would listen to some slamming track which would get me fired up and generally ready to kick some ass. My go to anthem for the month was The Bronx’s cover of Black Night Crash, a punk track which opens up with a ‘yeah!’ that got me going on even my most sluggish of mornings. I would often bounce around the block and always returned home ready to face a new challenge.

Pre-Writing Statement

Once at my desk, immediately before beginning the first draft, I would read a short passage aloud:

“Anything and everything that arises today can be written down,
Anything and everything that arises is a gift from my basic wealth, is bringing me closer to the truth, could be part of the message I want to convey… even if it’s a poop joke”.

This was inspired by Stephen Pressfield who makes a prayer to the Muse every morning before he begins writing. I liked the idea of using the same one but it just didn’t quite feel right for me. I found the above one whilst searching for prayers/odes to read before writing. This one was simple and straightforward and felt right, reminding myself that whatever I put down would be OK. Having this in the forefront of my mind before writing helped to settle me and then to blast through doubting resistance and keep moving forward with my first draft.

I had these placed in front of me every day. On the right, my passage, plus a picture of my ‘muse’, and on the left, my mantra.

A Positive Mantra

The idea for this challenge came in the latter part of a magic truffle journey and both excited and scared me. It seemed like a pretty big ask but at the same time the belief came to my mind, and it came with two words: ‘I can’.

This served as a mantra for my month and I repeated it many times in the week before starting as a way to psych myself up. I even changed the password on my computer to ‘I can!’ before the month so that every time I logged in I would again put it out in to the world and internalize this belief. I believe there is a great power to this and developing a mantra for a challenge is something that I will probably do again in the future.

Final Thoughts

So those are a few things which supported and helped me through the process, to finish here are a couple of final thoughts from the challenge.

Creativity breeds creativity

Before going into the month I brainstormed a few article ideas and kept them in a list for my reference. Initially it was useful to have so I felt reassured that I wouldn’t draw a blank but as the month went on what happened was a surprise. Rather than the list getting shorter as I wrote different pieces, what I found was that the opposite actually happened, and the list of ideas for articles kept growing. As I wrote more articles, more ideas for other articles that I wanted to write just kept popping up. This was a great feeling as I find that moment when a new idea pops up in the mind to be quite satisfying. In a creative sense it feels great to have such an abundance of ideas out there. However, deciding to act on them or let them go is another step and definitely something for to me consider as I make decisions about how I will spend my time and what projects I want to devote my time and attention to.

Writing More

This was the first 30 day challenge I used for a creative project and I think that is what made it so rewarding. It forced me to engage my mind in a particular way every day that is different than other challenges I’ve done and I noticed my mind working in a new and novel way that I haven’t since I learned Spanish. That psychedelic (reality broadening) aspect was hugely interesting and definitely will push me to do more of these types of challenges in the future.

Also, just being that creative felt great in and of itself. I was away for work the two weeks immediately following the challenge and didn’t have an opportunity to blog. (I wrote How to Start a Meditation Circle on a double day during the 30 day challenge so I’d have something to publish whilst away on work). I have actually missed getting up and writing and publishing every day. I don’t really know how to describe the feeling other than totally agreeing with Seth Godin’s comment that ‘blogging is good for the soul’. Although I feel rusty coming back to it after a couple weeks out it feels good to write again. There is a new version of Maps of the Mind coming later this year and I will then settle in to a schedule of one to two articles every week. I noticed that I had more regular readers for the month of July and that also felt great to have new content for people coming back.

Finding Purpose

One of the most remarkable things I experienced was the sense of purpose I felt throughout the month. The daily challenge gave me a real raison d’être each day and I woke up each morning excited for the day and to see what it had in store.

So there’s my review for my 30 day writing challenge.  Ultimately it was an incredible, magical, and especially empowering month. It has just further developed my love for the 30 day challenge and I am excited to throw myself in to many more. Taking a break for the month of August, I am already looking forward to embarking on a new one for September…. ????

Last month I completed my most difficult 30 day challenge yet; publishing a new blog post about psychedelics every day for 30 days of July.

It was an incredible month packed with synchronicities and very meaningful to me in terms of challenging myself and cultivating a growth and exploratory mindset. I can say that it has been one of the most interesting months of my life and so many things occurred, not all clearly because of the challenge, but in ways that I don’t think were entirely coincidental.

The month also nicely coincided with two other milestones for Maps of the Mind, the most views and visitors the site has ever received in a month, and also during the month, 2020 became the year with the most views and visitors. With 5 months left this is very promising and by years end will set a nice new bar for me to reach in 2021.

I’d originally planned to do a review on the final day of the month but in the end needed the time to prepare for a work trip to the Netherlands. I just arrived back on Wednesday and today wanted to take the time to sit down and review the challenge and allow the lessons and all that passed to sink in a little deeper.

PSYJuly Review

Going into the challenge I was both excited and nervous. At the start of July I’d averaged around one post per month on the blog so this was effectively multiplying my output by a factor of 30 – no small amount. However, I knew that my slow rate was due largely to overthinking and perfectionism and the idea of making a jump that was so ridiculous in this regard was that I knew it would push me to overcome this resistance and through whatever was holding me back.

I learned an incredible amount about my writing process and was able to experiment with different ways of approaching writing articles, from structuring, drafting and also using different writing tools.

It was a challenging process and although letting go of those perfectionist tendencies was one of the main difficulties, there were were other hurdles such as days when I didn’t feel that motivated or inspired, and other days when I was tired and was still faced with the fact that I still had to crank out another piece. There were also some very personal things I wrote about which I’ve never shared in public and was nervous about posting online.

At those difficult moments, there were many things which helped. Here I will share a few of those things and I believe these will be most useful for me to remember going forward into new challenges.

Fully committing beforehand

Fully committing 100% to completing the challenge beforehand helped me to find ways and solutions through tight spots. The biggest example of this came on day 11 with an unexpected obstacle.

I was out on my skateboard early on the Sunday morning (I have found weekend mornings are the best times to skate as the city sleeps and you have the roads to yourself). One third in to the 30 days of publishing, I was feeling great about my creative output and in an excellent mood. The sun was shining, I had music playing in my headphones and, skating on some newly paved smooth ass roads, I felt on top of the world. I busted out a few new tricks that I haven’t in a while and was getting a little bit cocky. What happens when you get too cocky? You get a hard lesson.

Flying down the road on my way home from Alexanderplatz I attempted something I haven’t landed in years, and clipping the curb, fell hard. After lying on my back for around 15 minutes, making strange noises whilst I dealt with the pain, I picked myself off the tarmac and with a blood stained T-shirt, gingerly got myself home.

With my cuts and scrapes cleaned and bandaged up and an icepack applied to my right elbow, I was OK, but I’d totally lost the use of my right arm. No movement whatsoever, I couldn’t use my fingers, I couldn’t use my hand. The whole right arm was immobile and in a lot of pain.

At this point I might’ve thought that maybe I can’t go on with the challenge. After all, losing all use of your dominant arm is quite a setback if you are planning on writing. However by this stage I was so committed to the challenge that I knew I had to find a way.

Coincidentally, I had read article the day before called Setback or step up? about whether a change is a setback or an opportunity depends on your framing. It clicked in my mind that this is actually an opportunity for me rather than a hindrance. Thinking back to my original intentions, one of them was to force myself to think differently about how I create. If this wasn’t an opportunity for me to to think differently then what was?

I began dictating my first draft directly into Google Docs using voice typing and did my editing one-handed with my left hand. This editing process was tedious and time-consuming, but determination and resolve kept me going and I feel like I really strengthened these muscles through this trial. Fully committing to the decision to finish 30 days is something that ultimately pushed me through and kept me determined.

In this regard taking the time before hand to think about why I was doing it and having clear intentions very much helped me.

Revisiting Intentions

When stuck in some way, revisiting my original intentions helped a lot. I was able to remember why I was doing this and use it as a compass and impetus for action. There were many occasions when I started to get a little bit jammed or doubting and one of my intentions absolutely cleared up the issue for me and gave me a clear focus and direction to move forward.

Explorer’s Mindset

Seeing the month as an experiment very much helped to let go of perfectionism. I was able to tell myself that it was an experiment and that I would gain valuable data whatever happens and whatever I put out. This is one of the most useful mindsets I’ve found in terms of growing and something I wish to continue to cultivate.

Setting Limits

The first week was difficult and I had to overcome a lot of resistance to hitting the publish button when I was not happy with what I was putting out. Fortunately I had a very busy month outside of the writing challenge and though that might seem like the worst time to do such a challenge, it was actually a blessing. It pushed me to hit publish early in the day so that I could move on and get on with the rest of my day. It meant that I couldn’t afford to continually edit or try to refine the post.

I would set a deadline early in the day, do the piece to the best that I could by that time, publish it, and then move on. When my deadline came, usually around 10 or 11 am, I would remind myself that the point was to practice hitting publish even whilst not being satisfied with the final piece. Some days I really didn’t want to publish, but coming out the other side can say it was definitely worth it. I always have the opportunity to revisit and edit pieces in the future if I like.

More next time…

There is plenty more to this, but alas I am out of writing time and need to move on with the day. I’ll continue in a part two of this post soon… see you next week!