Everyone that uses psychedelics for personal growth or healing, knows the importance of integration.
What is psychedelic integration? Integration is the process of taking the lessons and insights from your psychedelic experience and actualizing them. The goal of this process is to embed the lessons and insights into the fabric of your everyday reality.
So how do we actually go about doing that? This is where it gets more abstract. If you ask 10 different people what the process of psychedelic integration looks like you will probably get 10 different answers, with varying degrees of overlap.
No two psychedelic experiences are the same. Integration needs to take the uniqueness of the experiences into consideration. When it comes to psychedelic integration one size does not fit all. A psychedelic integration process is most effective when it is created from within, and tailored to one's own needs. Some people might find standard one on one therapy to be effective, other's may find a collective group experience better. Regardless of what is best for us, seeing how others integrate their experiences can help us learn how to integrate our own experiences.
One misunderstanding I see in psychedelic integration is believing that it is a finite process, one that has an end. Like you just have to do certain things, a specific number of times and the experience will be integrated. We believe that psychedelic integration is a life-long process. The experiences and the lessons we learn from it must be revisited throughout life.
People will often suggest certain things when it comes to psychedelic integration like journaling or meditation. And although these things can be helpful tools, without a structured plan they fail to accomplish what they are intended to. It’s like trying to build a house and you have all the materials and tools you need but you don’t have a blueprint.
I would like to discuss how to create a blueprint. Like I said before, this is how my brother and I created our psychedelic integration practice, and it will not have the same effects or results to anyone else. But maybe it can help give you an idea on how to start building your blueprint.
Our Integration structure
First, I need to give you a little backstory. This is me on the right. I struggled my whole life with depression, out of desperation I tried a psychedelic for the first time. I had a profound experience and I thought everything had changed, my depression went away, and I went on with my life. Three months later the depression returned stronger and I felt more hopeless than ever. I didn’t know what to do with the experience I had. I knew it was meaningful but I had no way of drawing that meaning out and integrating it into my life.
This is my brother Rory, on the left. He struggled with opiate addiction for nearly 10 years and was on methadone for 7 years. I approached him with this idea of psychedelic treatment, hoping it could help him. He reluctantly agreed. He had a powerful experience and the following day was the first day in over 6 months that he didn’t use heroin or crack. He managed to keep that up for nearly 3 months. But as he began the process of getting off the methadone he relapsed. Within 2 weeks he overdosed twice and nearly died. He didn’t have a way to revisit his experience and create meaning out of it.
This is when we started thinking about a collective integration process using cannabis as a medium to bridge the gap between our psychedelic experiences and our everyday experiences. The process started very simply. Rory, a friend and I, just hiked out into the woods, smoked cannabis, sat in silence for as long as we could bear, then talked about how we felt. Over the course of a year, it has developed into an intensely structured and ritualized process. Involving breathing exercises, meditation, eye-gazing, and other techniques.
A note on cannabis. We think cannabis can be an incredible tool for revisiting past psychedelic experiences and lowering our barriers to get into the feeling of those moments. It has been an incredible integration tool for us. But it is not necessary. And I feel obligated to warn anyone interested in trying this that it is intense, from our experience, it is more intense than the psychedelic experiences themselves. It’s not just the cannabis, it is the entire ritual structure that creates an incredibly intense and sometimes overwhelming experience. I have used cannabis in the past to party and have fun. This is not that, I feel the most terrifying, and overwhelming feelings in this state and it is not pleasant. The only time I smoke is in this ritual setting. I don’t want to use cannabis in any other way, because I don't want it to take away from the value that I get in this setting. We have also performed this ritual without cannabis and it still is effective for integrating these experiences.
With that being said, let me tell a story to show how this ritual structure helps me integrate psychedelic experiences. This took place a day after I had a 6 gram psilocybin dose, the highest and most intense psychedelic experience I have ever had. After the experience I was overwhelmed with questions and anxieties, analyzing everything I had experienced, and what it all meant. The experience itself was filled with love and joy, but I also experienced tremendous fear and anxiety. My main reason I decided to take the mushrooms was to confront my fear of death. The following day as I walked up to the ritual space, I was terrified that this fear would resurface and overwhelm me.
As I suspected, the fears and feelings of the experience did resurface. They overwhelmed me, and I felt more scared than ever. I felt the dread of death. But as I sat with these feelings they began to transform and take on new meaning. The fear of death did not go away, I realized it never will. But by allowing myself to feel it, it gave me a new appreciation for life.
One thing I experienced on the mushrooms was a feeling of infinity, a never-ending loop. This terrified me more than death. And for once I began to consider the opposite of death, never-ending life. Without death, life would be void of meaning, we would be trapped. That's how I felt on the mushrooms, trapped in a loop. I remember just wanting it to end.
As I relived this experience in the ritual, I began to see everything with much more clarity. The doubt dissipated, and I was left with an incredible feeling of meaning and faith in my experience. I walked away from that ritual more excited for life, grateful that I get this opportunity to live and to die.
I can’t help but think that if I did not have the ritual structure to help me interpret it I would have avoided it. I would have pushed the experience away because it was too frightening. And I would have done myself a great disservice in doing so. The ritual and the group structure provided me the confidence to look these things in the face and accept them.
This ritual setting has been as important, if not more important, than the psychedelic experiences themselves for helping me overcome my depression and destructive habits of abusing substances. This ritual has been critical to Rory getting sober and staying off opiates for the past year. Something I doubted I would ever see in my life. We can’t explain to you everything that this ritual does for us. We just hope that it may spark some ideas for people out there struggling with how to get the most out of their psychedelic experiences.
One more thing I wanted to say is that psychedelic experiences play a crucial role in the creation of this ritual and the power of it, but they are not necessary. Rituals like these can provide value despite not having any psychedelic experience. It is really the vulnerability, camaraderie, and connection that provides so much value. Ultimately, this is a connection ritual, designed to help us forge deeper meanings in our lives. Psychedelics are just one tool we can use to help us do that.
Integration is a crucial piece that comes after the psychedelic experience but another piece of the puzzle is what to do in preparation for the experience. A psychedelic blueprint consists of both the preparation, the experience, and the integration. If you would like to talk more about this process please reach out.