Those of you who know me have probably heard me talking about plant medicine or the use of psychedelics, and the amazing potential for transformation.
As someone in the process of writing a book on the benefits of psychedelics – organising a (legal) psychedelic mastermind retreat on a private island in the Netherlands – I’m always excited to share stories and information about the huge potential of these substances, because I have seen how it can transform trauma and improve brain health.
Research has been conducted over the past 10 years in the field of psychedelics, and thanks to the latest technology in brain scanning, it is understood that psychedelic substances allow the brain become more open to new ideas and thought patterns. This has proven in many studies to be hugely beneficial for people who are anxious or depressed who tend to ruminate or get stuck in their own limiting beliefs.
Psychedelics are incredibly powerful tools, unlike anything else we have researched in the mental health space, these substances when administered in research conditions can both kick-start and fast-track the mental healing process – some have described a single session with psychedelics as “like ten years of therapy in a very short session”.
In fact a five-year study suggests the use of psychedelics could work “like a surgical intervention” for mental illness. In fact a clinical trial completed by researchers from Johns Hopkins University induced out of body experiences in a small group of healthy volunteers dosed with psilocybin. The participants said they felt more open, more imaginative and more appreciative of beauty. Six months after the experience, 80 percent of the Johns Hopkins participants showed significant decreases in symptoms of depression and anxiety, as measured by what’s considered a gold standard psychiatric evaluation.
Bad experiences reported in the media, and the stigma that became deep rooted when the ‘war on drugs’ began back in the 60’s related to the use of taking such substances, and it going ‘wrong’, are normally due to the following three things not being observed.
- Dosage – like anything dosage needs to be measured appropriately. This is not for me to say but working with experts a small amount (ex. 3 grams of psilocybin mushrooms taken as a tea), can offer an experience that can last up to 6 hours, with the peak of the experience lasting up to a few hours.
- Set (Mindset)– What intentions you go into the experience with, how you feel before you take them. You are more likely to have a bad experience if you are taking these healing tools in a recreations and flippant way, with no awareness for the potential subconscious narratives that could resurface. If you go in with an open mind, curiosity and self-compassion in a tie you feel safe and ready to heal (and have the support to do so) then you are going to experience something utterly different than if you take them recreationally for ‘a good time’.
- Setting (Environment) – the environment plays a big part in the experience. Attending a retreat, a calm and private environment with those familiar with the substance will give you the optimum experience. This is also affected by who you are surrounding yourself with – if you are participating in a ceremony it is important to ensure you are working with those who are used to the effects, kind of like psychedelic elders.
So why am I raving about psychedelics?
The word “psychedelic” combines the Greek words for mind/soul (psyche) and manifest/reveal (dēlos) – meaning anything that brings the true nature of the mind into a conscious, observable space. When referring to psychedelics, we are usually talking about substances that produce a specific altered state of consciousness, such as LSD, magic mushrooms, or ayahuasca, to name a few.
You might also hear the term “entheogen”, which means “to find God within oneself” which refers to a psychoactive substance that induces alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition or behaviour for the purposes of bringing about spiritual development in a sacred context.
The term “plant medicine” is also used to honour the fact that these substances come from natural sources and that they have been used medicinally and ceremonially for thousands of years.
In other words, psychedelics help to expand people’s minds, make them question the status quo, and encourage them to recognise the interconnectedness of all creatures.
The connection to positive psychology
Positive psychology looks to shift our mindset to help us undergo huge transformation, and in many ways, just like a really good life coaching session, a psychedelic trip can enable you to see the world from a completely different perspective, view problems from an angle you had never considered before, and even leave you completely questioning your worldview and sense of identity.
It enables you to let go of time – past – present and future. It takes you out of the driver’s seat and enables you to step out of the unconscious loop that keeps playing and keeps you stuck; you can effectively re-work and rewire how you think about something.
Most people who experience psilocybin, can experience what is referred to as “ego death” – the sense that the normal boundaries between themselves and the rest of the universe fade away.
They then experience the Oneness and connectedness of everything.
This same sense of expansiveness and interconnectedness with the universe can be experienced through holotropic breathwork, kundalini yoga, meditation, and other shamanic states, and it could well explain why a lot of people who come out of psychedelic experiences show long-lasting increases in the personality trait of “openness” and connectedness to nature.
The indigenous cultures have used this medicine as part of their culture to cure and treat their illnesses for centuries. They cannot understand how and why we have shunned plant medicine in the way we do.
Now modern western society is starting to wake up to the possibility that it has a widespread and deep-rooted illness – one where success is measured through material gain – and a lack of connection to us and our souls.
Re-introducing plant medicine into our lives, whether cacao ceremonies or psychedelics, means we are able to listen to those parts of us we have silenced, and reconnect our mind, body and spirit.
Everything is connected.