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7 Considerations for Working with Psychedelics*

A very common question I get is: how do I take psychedelics on my own for healing purposes?

With the rise of popularity of psilocybin, MDMA, cannabis, and other psychedelics in therapeutic settings, taking psychedelics for healing instead of just recreation is becoming more commonplace. Yet, there is a huge gap between our collective desire to heal with these medicines and our knowledge of how to safely and effectively do so.

I always recommend working with an experienced and skilled guide when journeying and/or seeking psychedelic integration support both before and after a journey. That being said, many of us choose to work with psychedelics alone, or accompanied by friends or loved ones. If that is the case for you right now, here are seven simple steps you can take to help create a container of safety, support, healing, and growth.

*Please note that this blog is not an endorsement for partaking in substances that are against the law, but rather a source of information to be used for educational purposes and harm reduction.

1. Do your research

Before you eat a handful of magic mushrooms or smoke a bowl of DMT, know what you’re getting yourself into. Is the psychedelic in question synthetic or natural? Where is it naturally found or how is it created? Are there any known traditional uses for it, and if so, what are they? Most importantly, are there any known contraindications around the psychedelic that you need to consider, such as certain foods or medications to avoid taking beforehand, or any mental health conditions that may be exacerbated?

By doing your research beforehand, you can take precautions against doing something that may be genuinely dangerous to your wellbeing. Additionally, fears you have about your psychedelic may be alleviated by having good research preparation beforehand—for example, knowing that a substance is not toxic and will not physically kill you can alleviate any such fears that may surface during the experience.

A couple books that are good resources for learning about working with psychedelics are Consciousness Medicine by Françoise Bourzat and The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide by James Fadiman.

2. Set an Intention

Setting an intention shows your respect and seriousness about working with your psychedelic in a healing way. When you set an intention, you acknowledge that the medicine you’re working with has agency—it can hear and respond to your wishes. Additionally, intention setting creates a framework for any experiences that arise before/during/after the session to be contextualized and understood.

Sometimes setting an intention can be the most powerful part of the whole psychedelic journey. Once, before an ayahuasca ceremony that I was participating in, I set the intention to rest deeply. I felt really tired, and felt that I needed more sleep in my day-to-day life. After ingesting the medicine, I fell asleep for the duration of the ceremony and experienced no psychoactive affects whatsoever, even though I had taken a larger dose than the day before, which had affected me very strongly. This story illustrates the abiding power of setting an intention—my prayer for simple deep rest in that moment surpassed the need for a more typical psychedelic experience with visions, revelations, and surfaced emotions.

Sometimes intentions take a long time to unfold—months, years, or even a lifetime. Setting an intention is like planting a seed and waiting for it to grow into a flower, a bush, or a tree. It can take a long time before the fruit of your desires manifests in an obvious way in your waking reality. It is a valuable skill to learn to read subtle cues in your day-to-day life as signs of progress towards your overall goal.

3. Create a Container

Create a safe space by only inviting people you trust into the space where your journey will take place. Make sure that there are no sources of undue paranoia or discomfort. Consider both set and setting: your mindset going into the experience and the environment itself.

Invoke spiritual protection in any way you know how—and if you don’t know how, then learn. Sometimes people are startled to realize that the spiritual world is just like waking life: not everyone you meet is friendly or has your best interests at heart. It is paramount that when you open yourself up to expanded dimensions of reality that you have the proper support and protection from your spirit guardians and your own faculty of discernment.

Invoking protection is a way to keep unwanted influences at bay. This is a skill like any other that can be learned through both guidance and intuition. There are many traditions all over the world where black magic is a very real threat, and can kill even skilled psychedelic practitioners. If you feel at all unclear about your ability to protect yourself and exercise good judgment navigating the spirit world in an expanded state of consciousness, consider finding a qualified guide to accompany you on your journey.

4. Take the Dose that Feels Right

When deciding how much of a substance to take, always remember less is more. Taking a larger dose of a psychedelic does not guarantee you will have a bigger or better experience with it.

Taking a smaller dose, even if pressured against it by peers or even by a guide, can be a very empowering experience. Instead of handing over your personal agency to someone else’s discretion, check in with yourself and decide what feels right.

One of the most powerful experiences I ever had with a psychedelic was with one of the smallest doses I have ever taken. This goes back to the true power of intention in shaping an experience—it matters less how much you take, and more how you take it.

5. Feel Your Body

The language of nature is expressed through the sensations of the body: hot, cold, expansion, contraction, pain, pleasure, sorrow, and joy. Staying rooted by paying attention to the sensations that arise in your body during a psychedelic experience will help bridge your experience from your journey into your daily life. You will find more ease and fluidity in connecting the dots between what you experienced during the journey and how you can integrate the teachings, healing, and wisdom into your everyday routine.

6. Ask for Help

We are not made to heal alone—the act of healing is in itself realizing interdependence with all beings. During a journey, remember to ask for help from friends, family, spirit guides, plants, animals, the land, crystals, numbers, shapes, angels, and other dimensional beings—whoever it is that you most connect with. The point is that asking for help is not cowardly, but rather incredibly brave. Asking for help means that you are vulnerable enough to acknowledge that you cannot do this alone, and courageous enough to reach out to others for guidance.

7. Integrate the Experience

Remember that after the psychedelic experience has ended, the real integration journey is just beginning. Energetic imprints, lessons, and relational patterns that initially encoded themselves into your psyche during the psychedelic experience will continue to evolve and unfold over time as they sink deeper into your mind and body. Working with the guidance of a psychedelic integration specialist can help to midwife this process along, and ensure that nothing gets “stuck” along the way.

Sometimes, part of our integration journey is acknowledging that we need to take a break from actively working with psychedelics. This, too, is part of the psychedelic journey, and does not mean we are weak, spiritually inept, or otherwise deficient. Lasting strength and resiliency come from the courage to be truthful, not from the drive to be, or do, more.

Learn more about psychedelic integration here.

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