The Latin word Integrare means to ‘make whole’ or ‘begin again’. Integration is about moving towards wholeness.
What does it mean to make whole? There may be times in our lives where we feel fragmented. We might talk in terms of ‘parts’; a part of you wants one thing and another part of you feels like it’s struggling. There may be a part of you that you try to push way, ignore or numb. Maybe you don’t like that shadow part of you and would rather not face it. To become whole is to bring these parts into the light and integrate or blend together to make one unified whole being. Using psychedelics or plant medicine is a way to understand the shadow parts of the self and to integrate the learning into every day life.
Many of us come to psychedelics through partying when we were younger where tripping is a laugh and a way to spend a night dancing and having fun. Some of us have had challenging trips, some good, some spiritual and for some, journeying can be life changing. There is a lot of emerging research that is showing that these plant medicines aren’t just for partying. Many people are using plant medicines such as psilocybin and ayahuasca as a way to self discovery, healing and becoming whole in what can be seen as a fragmented and damaged world.
If you have trauma in your life the chances are that some of these plant medicines such as psilocybin will unleash what is in your unconscious mind; that which is beneath the conscious mind. This is the stuff that has been buried deep by way of protecting yourself from pain and hurt. It’s the emotions and fears behind the ego. We build up so many layers of self but who are we really behind the masks? Psychedelics can show us. They reveal to us what it is that we are running from. And sometimes that can hurt badly and takes a while to understand. This is where the work of integrating your experience comes in.
But before all of that we need to understand what it is that we want to get out of our journeying. If it’s just a great night on acid in a club or at a festival, well go ahead if that’s your bag. At some festivals there may be a tent where psychedelic harm reduction and peer support are there to help people navigate through challenging trips. One such organisation is called The Zendo Project. This project is part of the MAPS foundation. They create safe spaces with peer support for you to go to if you need time out or need to be with a calming ‘sitter’ if you are experiencing a difficult trip.
If journeying is prepared in order for you to work on yourself then there’s a little more involved. It’s helpful to have an integration coach or therapist if there is deep trauma and to begin the work weeks before you are journeying. Talking about your traumatic experiences in a safe setting with a trusted therapist can begin the healing process. Combine this with plant medicine and a lot of healing can take place. This is not an over night fix and there may be many journeys needed; it all depends on the individual and what the issues are.
Once you have decided to take plant medicine to aid in your healing the basics need taking care of but are often overlooked. Are you well rested beforehand? Journeying can be exhausting with many hours of deep exploratory work depending on the medicine. How’s your diet? Have you drank enough water? Are you taking care of yourself? This is the start of the journeying, not when you have ingested the medicine. This all has been likened to packing a suitcase and planning before you go on holiday. You wouldn’t just get up one morning and jump on a plane with destination unknown without clothes or passports. In a similar way preparation is crucial before embarking on a psychedelic journey.
Deciding on where the journey will take place and with whom.
Ok. You are feeling pretty good about the taking care of yourself part and have decided that you are going to go ahead with a journey. The next part to look at is where and with whom? Have you decided on a retreat? Or are you doing this alone or with a trusted ‘sober’ friend? If you have decided to do this on your own then there are a number of things that you can prepare. Where are you going to be taking your psychedelics? It’s advisable to stay clear of busy cities if possible! Many people head for the outdoors away from people and immerse themselves in the natural environment. As long as it is safe to do this then it can be a very calming and beautiful experience. People can experience a oneness with their surroundings in nature that is difficult to experience in a bedroom. Sitting at the base of a tree or by a stream can feel grounding for some.
If you have decided that you want to do this indoors then making sure you won’t be disturbed for a number of hours is crucial; turn off your phone and lock your door. Make a music playlist to help you feel calm, a blindfold can help you to really get into your own space. A bottle of water by your side, maybe a pen and paper to write or draw what you are experiencing if this is your thing. Have you told anyone that you are journeying? Can you call a trusted friend if things get scary or unmanageable for you? Is there anyone that could just talk you through a difficult trip? Saying things to you like “this will pass, it’s part of the journey, you are going to be ok.” can be helpful. Sticky notes around the indoor space saying these things can also be helpful for you.
Afterwards comes the integration. This is the part that is about delving deep into what the medicine has shown to you and beginning to make sense of it and to bring it into your everyday life. Talking to an integration coach can help you to do this. Psychedelics can shake up our perception of our inner worlds and it may take time to fully understand what it is that we have learnt. Doing this before your next journey is almost crucial. A break between trips will allow you to fully integrate what you have learned.
We all have the capacity to heal if we can begin to trust in our inner healing intuition. Just as the body knows how to heal from a wound, the psyche can heal too if we allow it. Integrating psychedelics is this allowing and understanding so that we may gain self awareness and heal ourselves.