The False Dichotomy of Psychedelic Support

Every day it seems the momentum behind the psychedelic movement grows and becomes more serious. I’m overjoyed to know that the mental health community is finally beginning to incorporate these plant medicines into their practices. However, I am getting uneasy at the tone that pervades this new promotion. I’ve heard talk of corporations already working on ways to alter, commodify, and monetize these ancient spiritual experiences. More and more professionals are professing that while these substances are therapeutic and medicinal, they are not to be taken without the guidance and support of some authoritative entity.

I understand that traditionally, the tribes and peoples that have used plant medicine as part of their culture did so under the supervision of a shaman, elder, or guide of some kind. Even so, I think it is a grave mistake for this to be preached as the only way one can benefit from these natural substances. My experience with LSD has given me a completely different perspective on psychedelics than what I am now seeing in the mainstream explanations. I honestly find it very elitist and offensive to have it assumed some person of authority must facilitate this divine communion with nature and with ourselves.

Psychedelics, in my opinion, speak for themselves. No one has to guide me in my journey. I feel deeply that part of that journey is learning to be your own guide. The psychoactive substances themselves are the teacher. There is certainly nothing wrong with eliciting the help of a mental health professional or a shaman (given there is some meaning behind that word, and it isn’t just a self proclamation of some egotistical white man) especially if that relieves your fears or gives you a feeling of comfort and safety. I just feel there is something dangerous in professing that it is a requirement in order to use psychedelics safely and receive their healing benefits. There are hundreds of thousands of people, like myself, that would never have a psychedelic experience if we were to believe this interpretation. Requiring this particular, clinical set and setting leaves the realm of psychedelic experiences to only a small, financially elevated subset of individuals that have the ability to pay for these services and/or travel to where they are available.

I’ve taken LSD a handful of times now, never with any clear set intention or professional guide, and still, it has been an utterly transcendent and transformational experience. You don’t have to go looking for answers and healing when you ingest these plant medicines, they will break upon you of their own volition like rays of sunlight cresting the horizon. It is inevitable. There is such a thing as “play therapy” and this is the vein in which I see psychedelic therapy. I believe it is a grave mistake to tarnish this innocent and natural experience with the heavy weight of “serious spiritual work.”

I don’t understand why everything I read or listen to about psychedelics seems to put “fun trips” and “spiritual awakenings” into separate and opposite camps. Why must they be mutually exclusive? My trips have all been silly, playful, and lighthearted, while simultaneously being the most poignant spiritual experiences I’ve ever had. Why must spirituality be cold, clinical, and serious? Can’t we have fun while we heal? I certainly believe we can and that it is a central part of the healing experience.

One of the big problems with society and humanity today is that we take ourselves too seriously. LSD has been an opportunity for me to let go of that stuffy, self-importance and existential gravitas. It reminds me how to open myself to the silly, the absurd, the curiosity, the awe of this life. It’s a lesson in acceptance, simple pleasure, childlike wonder, and ecstatic, undefinable joy. I don’t believe we should isolate ourselves in a room and try to force the direction and scope of our psychedelic voyages. We must give ourselves space to explore, to discover, to follow the experience wherever it chooses to take us.

I have nothing against the therapeutic or ritualistic uses of plant medicine. I just feel uneasy about this camp’s insistence that these settings are the only appropriate or beneficial ways to utilize psychedelics. Plant medicines are a gift from mother Earth. They should be equally accessible to all of us, regardless of where we live or if we have the money/connections to purchase a “guide.” The setting up of an atmosphere or gatekeeping is something we should be extremely wary of. Always be safe, do your own research, and take precautions, but don’t allow anyone to tell you that you must go through them to obtain Earth’s most potent and healing medicine.

Cycles

Everything’s a cycle. You’ve gotta let it come to you. And when it does, you will know what to do.

– Bright Eyes

Happy spring, everyone! I am so pleased to welcome this most lovely of seasons back again. While I adore the summer months, spring is probably my true favorite. There is nothing quite like the fresh, bright, vibrant energy of this time of year. There is so much beauty in contrast. I’ve always found it funny the way 55-60 degree weather in the fall seems dreadfully cold to me, yet the very same temperature is a godsend in the spring. At the end of the year I’d consider this weather too chilly for a walk, but now I am itching to be outdoors in the sunshine again. I used to dream about moving somewhere south so that I wouldn’t have to experience the snow and bitter cold of winter every year, but as I’ve grown older I’ve developed an attachment to this area of the country. Sometimes we need to face discomfort or adversity in order to fully appreciate and savor the rest of life. There is a lot that the cycling of seasons has to teach us if we are willing to witness their endless unfolding.

There is a strange comfort that repetition brings us. This constant ebb and flow that exists everywhere in this life is truly something beautiful to behold. This constant churning keeps life from becoming stagnant. It really is true that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Without the colorless cold, the bitter wind, the once lush trees reduced to creaking black skeletons, we would not be able to fully appreciate watching the landscape come alive again. We wouldn’t be able to experience this bustling, rustling, vibrating energy as the earth comes alive once more. The sensation of new life, of awakening, of hope that spring stirs within us is unparalleled. It never gets old no matter how many years we have had here.

Spring reminds us that we need not fear the winter. It also insinuates that we need not fear even death. Imagine how frightened the first conscious creatures were that lived through winter. Surely with no guarantee, I would have assumed all was ending forever. Just as many of us feel facing death without faith in a god or an afterlife. There are no guarantees. No scientific evidence that we can analyze to suggest that anything exists beyond our final breaths. Still I find my own kind of faith in all of the cycles I see around me every day. Some cycles are as short as the ever-present rhythm of the breath, some are too long for us to comprehend or observe in a single lifetime. But I trust in the cyclical systems that surround us, that are within us, that we are inextricably involved in. While I may not be able to say what the cycle of life and death fully looks like, or even what it means for me, I am confident it is still a cycle all the same. I may not be there to witness the spring that blooms on the other side of my existence on this earth, in this body, in this mind, but I am confident that that spring exists. But for now, while I am still here, I am going to keep trying to learn from these cycles, to be mindful of them, to be grateful for them, to be patient with them, and to honor and accept where I am within them.

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