Updated: Nov 7
Disclaimer: "Psychedelics are largely illegal substances across the world, and we do not encourage or condone their use where it is against the law. However, we accept that illicit drug use occurs and believe that offering responsible harm reduction information is imperative to keeping people safe. For that reason, this article is designed to enhance the safety of those who decide to use these substances. Psychedelics at the very least should be respected. For the best guidance, consider seeking out legal psychedelic therapy centres" - Author: Resident Writer, Freya Astrella.
I was introduced to the world of plant medicines nearly a decade ago. And although I’ve had some profound insights over the years, I still carry all the scars and mental health issues that I did before.
But why? Have I done something wrong? Have the plants failed me?
They say that the secret to long-lasting healing is ‘integration’, which is a word you hear bandied around a lot in the plant medicine world. But not just any integration – it must be consistent, ruthless, and single-minded to be effective. And not many people are up for the challenge...
But first, what even is integration?
Integration is the work you do AFTER the ceremony, to make sure that you don’t slip back into old destructive habits, and to lock in your newfound wisdom.
You will have heard of several integration methods, many of which are the height of fashion across the wellness industry: breathwork, yoga, meditation, fasting, journalling, and cold water immersion to name just a few...
Integration is a piece of cake to begin with. When you get back home you will often feel a sparkly yet wobbly honeymoon phase in which your heart is wide open, and your neural plasticity is as gooey as Play-Doh. And perhaps for the first time in your life, you actually WANT to put in ‘the work’ of integration.
I for one have created several ‘meditation stations’ and spiritual altars, only to pack it all away a few weeks later. Like me and many others, you may find that your willpower wanes along with the ceremony afterglow.
Your home may become littered with ceremonial trinkets such as Shipibo embroideries, Agua de Florida, shamanic rattles, beaded jewellery, and rapéh snuffs. But these objects cannot do the work for you, and they may end up serving as sour reminders of the sort of person you could have become.
Cutting out people from your life
Integration isn’t just about what you do in solitude. Integration extends throughout your social circles, family dynamics, and workplace politics. Just think of all the toxic people you have to interface with on a regular basis – do you really have the discipline to ‘be your best self’ in their presence? Especially when they’re not only still stuck in their own ways, but also resentful of your attempts to transcend your ways.
In order to focus on your own healing, you may feel it necessary to cut ties with family and friends. I know I have. Since drinking ayahuasca for the first time, I have cut ties with my entire family and approximately 20 people from my social circle.
Be warned though. Even though you may feel relief for escaping their negativity, you may experience loss, grief, isolation, and resentment for cutting them off. Plus, you may end up losing a huge chunk of your support network, just as you need them the most.
Take it from me – self-preservation is a poisoned chalice.
Following your dreams
In the plant medicine world, there is also a lot of talk about “following your highest excitement” (i.e. living your dreams). And even though this message is delivered with the purest of intentions, it is also a poisoned chalice.
Because, what if you do indeed decide to pack in your job to pursue your dreams, and it inevitably fails? (Because the law of averages says it probably will). Then you’re burdened with a whole new set of negative emotions as well as that all too familiar voice of “I’m not good enough”.
One problem is simply substituted for another, and the cycle of the human condition continues...
So, are plant medicines pointless?
No! Not in the slightest. I personally have developed from an arrogant, angry mess into an emotionally sensitive deep thinker, with buckets of creativity and inspiration. And I put all that down to my journeying with psychedelics.
However, I still have all my wounds. What’s more, I am more acutely aware of my own bullshit – I have awakened to my own inner matrix, and believe me, sometimes I desperately crave ignorance.
Not only that, when I do suffer bouts of anxiety or depression, I feel like it’s my fault for ‘not integrating properly’. This feeling is certainly not helped by the swathes of glossy social media content published by those who claim to have the integration process on lock down.
This article serves as a reality check. It’s easy to get swept up in the hype of plant medicines, and it is exceptionally tempting to walk out of ceremonies believing in your own hype (the Jesus delusion is a real thing).
Life will continue long after the trip
But let’s be real. You are still you. Your life will carry on ticking by. Your family and friends won’t be the perfect ‘space holders’ for your personal growth. And you’ll probably stay stuck in your 9-5 job because the bills won’t magically disappear.
Moreover, you will find yourself caught up in mental storms throughout your life, during which the ‘downloads’ from your psychedelic experience will feel like vanishing dreams. You may feel forgotten – or even betrayed – by the plants. But you have to accept that the ‘plant spirits’ won’t be there to pick up the pieces.
So, it’s over to you. How will you integrate your psychedelic experience? Are you prepared to sacrifice everything in the name of personal growth? And are you prepared for the inevitable messiness of life to destroy your best efforts? Serious questions for a serious endeavour.
Plant medicines are not the key to utopia. They will open Pandora’s Box. They will rattle your cage. They will bring all your deep-seated trauma to the surface. And while this happens, you have to continue living like an adult in a modern society.
Are you ready for the ride?