Sitting with South American plant medicines like Ayahuasca, Yage, Hape, Sananga, and Kambo have resulted in serious lasting benefits in my life. I understand now why I’ve found it so hard to achieve that outside a time-tested tradition.
Where we place our attention moment to moment develops our default patterns of thinking. My default attention tends to get gobbled up by problem solving and worry. Sitting in a traditional plant medicine ceremony has made it clear to see this isn’t sustainable. My constant worry for hypothetical risks and past harms isn’t worth the harm it is meant to prevent, I’ve only convinced myself of this illusion despite the obvious deficits in important areas of my life. The Ego is a hell of a drug!
I spend the better part of my first 15 years using psychedelic substances being my own shaman. My tools were “acid and shrooms” more often than sacred medicines. I had no lineage, no master, or well-integrated knowledge of what I was doing. It was a hell of a lot of interesting, mind-expanding experiences, but I now ask myself: for what? Am I fulfilled? Did I achieve my goals? Lol, I didn’t even set any. Sadly, escaping to freedom and selectively integrating new perspectives was enough for me. Eventually that just adds up to ego-validation rather than true transformation.
In traditional ceremony, I discovered the value of removing distractions and grounding into a sustainable way of life. My ceremonies have been facilitated by people with children, families, elders… community. They use medicine grown, cultivated and prepared on their land. They sing, dance, and cry together while connecting through Earth’s most powerful treasures. This is the kind of set and setting that nurtures sustainable life and meaning.
It’s the sum of all the tiny nuances in the rituals that support these lasting impacts. It’s about holding an intention for as many moments as possible while shedding layers of our acquired defense mechanisms. It’s the dieting, the abstinence from sex/drugs/screens, the sacred setting, the music, the fellow journeyers with aligned intention, the honest facilitators, the openness to traditional wisdom… and lots of little moments of loving support exactly when you need it!
In other situations, your life can go in a bad direction very easily. With the stronger tryptamines like DMT, Ayahuasca, 5-MeO-DMT, and Bufo, the stakes get really high. These fundamental compounds hit the brain harder than anything. I urge folks to take it as seriously as possible and if it’s your first time, take it more seriously than you think!
This has all made me even more convicted about the importance of psychedelic integration. After the effects wear off, the brain’s neuroplasticity and hub network integration go back to normal. We’re not meant to stay that way, so the trick is resetting the mold responsibly. It’s a beautiful art, a subtle, yet powerful crafting of human experience.