My first time having psychedelic mushrooms (psilocybin) I was 13 years old. Thirteen! What was a thirteen year old kid doing with mushrooms? Apparently eating them and going to an end-of-the-year pool party. It was the last day of seventh grade, and my best friend Jake (name changed to anonymize this person) had managed to score some from his older brother, which we proceeded to eat en-route to the party. No one had any clue what we were up to as we walked behind the group of rowdy middle schoolers, our peers and friends. It ended up being a fun time, but purely and only that - fun. I didn’t start having spiritual experiences with mushrooms until the following year, when I started to consume them with more frequency and contemplate the deeper aspects of life whilst under their influence. But I was still only fourteen, and there was a cap to my ability to receive their healing affects at that age, as I had no spiritual foundation to rest my conclusions and ‘findings’ on. As insightful as mushrooms can be, I believe that once the ‘high’ wears off the insights and revelations are only as important as the more permanent behavior patterns and shifts that they invoke in the journeyman (or journeywoman) . It is in the fundamental changes to perspective that our actions change, which can lead to a different (and possibly improved) life experience. This is the idea of plant medicine becoming an ally and a tool to our awakening process, and in my early days I was still very half-baked in my life views and had a difficult time working WITH the medicine in a way that was truly effective for my spiritual growth. I think this a key point to mention as I do not want to give off the wrong idea. Substances such as psilocybin and other plant teachers can be very very powerful tools but also potentially harmful if wielded irresponsibly and should not be consumed without considerable intention and thought. It is each person’s own sovereign choice as far as what they wish to do with their life and body and this responsibility is not something to take lightly. The intention of this post is to give the reader an idea of where I’m coming from when discussing plant medicine, how these tools have become part of my path, and what I feel is important to contemplate if we are considering to include them in our own healing processes. I will also attempt to describe the importance of yoga in this equation and how yoga has and continues to serve as the foundation for my spiritual explorations. By the end of the essay, the reader will simply have more information from which to base their own conclusions.
For me, and for better or worse, I experimented with plant medicines at an early age. Whose to say that they did not shift things for me? I have no way of knowing for sure. While I am not here necessarily to promote the use of plant medicine, it is important to transparent with the reader about my journey with them, and how I’ve reached my own understanding around the sacredness of plant medicine teachers. I will say that much of my understanding and respect emerged out of my fumbling and unclear usage at such a young age, which ultimately built the foundation for my shamanic journeying later on in life. If you will indulge me, I will share a bit of my history.
I would like to start by recognizing that many plants have the ability to serve as medicine, and that there are specific plants to that can be and have been used in traditional and ceremonial settings to cure sicknesses of the mind and heart. It is good to recognize the healing power of plants. I did not have a concept of this, and did not acknowledge the powerful healing properties of plants when I first began experimenting - I was simply chasing an altered state of consciousness in an attempt to escape my reality - but soon enough I got the hint. There is an intelligence to these medicines that is superior to the rational faculties of the mind. I was young, and I had not yet fully developed my brain and mental/emotional/ energetic capacities, but luckily I learned that I was not equipped or spiritually prepared to handle the mushroom journeys I was frequently going on and the dosage I was going on them at. Intuitively, I decided to stop all usage of psilocybin. I was still a teenager, maybe 15 years old, and by this time I had over a dozen journeys under my belt, most of them ranging from a (by today’s standards) “high” dose to “very high” dose (my average was around 3.5 grams of dried mushrooms and my largest dose was 14 grams). By 15, I just stopped using them. I think I started to understand their power, or I had received the message from them, or both.
Through my teenage years and into early adulthood, I remained curious and open but a little more mature in my approaches. I think I’d grown up a bit. I had an experience with LSD that I will never forget, which included me weeping openly at the beautiful sunrise I witnessed while high. I only had one trip with LSD until much later in life, but that trip gave me another nugget of awakening that I stored away like a squirrel with a nut. I wouldn’t consider LSD a plant medicine but it’s effect was similar. I saw it’s power in that one trip and decided the responsible thing to do would be to wait for better life circumstances before I would journey further. What were “better life circumstances”? Perhaps just a deeper understanding about what is sacred. I still hadn’t developed my own concepts around spirituality and what my own spirituality entailed. I think this development of my
character - my spiritual side - was necessary before I could come to fully understand and respect the technology of the plant medicine. Therefore, I put things to rest and only really experimented with cannabis off-and-on until my early twenties.
Note: I skip the details on how I personally awakened into my spiritual path and the development of my spirituality ( this is the subject of a different post; I return to focusing my energy on the plant medicine topic. )
By the time I was a young adult, I had stopped all use of plant medicines, including cannabis, which was a long time ally to me. I had been using weed off and on since 12 years old. In a similar way as with mushrooms, I eventually learned about the power of the plant and stopped misusing it. I had begun to practice yoga and meditation, and I found that my breath could take me to the same heights that I had experienced whilst under the influence of plants, so I focused all my energy on deepening the practices which expanded my consciousness and elevated my state as opposed to relying on chemical changes from outside substances to do this.
My journey into yoga was and remains to be the most important part of my path, as it has been through yoga and yogic teachings that I was able to give a foundation and framework for some of the indescribable phenomena that characterized my journeys with plants, and consolidate all of this into a single understanding. I think the most important thing about all of this is to understand the point. What IS the point? What is the goal? Why are we doing these things? What is the actual usefulness of plant medicine in connection to these aims? It has been through a consistent and devoted practice to yoga (which of course includes meditation and Breathwork) that I’ve been able to bring into embodiment these contemplations. I feel like yoga allowed me to really integrate and understand, retrospectively, some of the teachings I had received early on, not just through plant medicine journeys and great highs, but through life in general and some of the spiritual experiences I was having. It was through yoga that I was really able to put into practice the truths I was discovering like little hidden pearls through my life. This remains to be true to this day, which is why I want to emphasize this paragraph here in an attempt to highlight the importance of yoga as the integrative and holistic practice that it is. I believe that yoga has the capacity to do everything that plant medicine does, but perhaps more accurately that yoga can describe and give context to the mystical dimensions that often become apparent through psychedelic adventures. I would imagine that in the cultures and traditions out of which plant medicine has been taken, there are yogic-like practices. Just like yoga asana (posture work) or yogic pranayama (breathwork) has been divorced of the deeper tradition and stripped of some of the essential teachings that make yoga, yoga, I am sure it is similar with plant medicine. Our plant medicine allies can expand the awareness and “turn the lights on” but when the substance wears off, we can end up back at square one. I have no doubt that the cultures which use plant medicine as a sacred ally in their enlightenment and healing processes that they have forms of what we call “integration work”. Ways of living and being that are crucial to maintain the expansion and the view of the new horizon that was awarded through the plant medicine journey. Since Yoga describes the phenomena of unity consciousness, which I believe is at the root of the healing effects resulting from any medicine and any healing experience, yoga can be used as a general but useful and effective integration framework. It gives practices and guidelines. This is will also be a topic for another time. Unlocking the energetic flow of the body through breathing practices, chanting of mantras and other bodymind techniques (based from yogic traditions) will assist the person in becoming sensitive enough to the universal energies present in all things. With plant medicines, our ability to work with the energy of the plants may be dependent on our ability to work within the intelligence of our own bodies, which yoga provides extremely useful frameworks to understand and develop competency over. Perhaps it is true to suspect that in the traditions of plant medicine, different forms of yoga are used to assist the shaman in their experiences, as when we get down to the fundamentals it is all essentially the same. I cannot say as I do not have the firsthand knowledge of these traditions in the same way I do with yoga, but I would suspect that there are similarities and parallels. The digression here is merely a vague attempt to suggest that the paths eventually merge into a single stream and are potentially complimentary, but that much experience and practice is necessary to find the overlapping truths and synergisms. Distinctions may merely exist in semantics alone. For now, what I will conclude this paragraph by saying is that yoga may be quite effective to describe and lay supportive foundations for shamanic work such as plant medicine journeys. It certainly has in my own case.
My next journey with mushrooms wasn’t until I had spent a good amount of time fully invested on my yogic path. I’d had a daily practice of chanting, breathing, meditation and posture work for a few years at this point, and I was getting the intuitive hit that it was time for me have a plant medicine journey. I can’t say how I knew this, but there was a clear message from my spirt suggesting that I would benefit from a mushroom journey. Interestingly, when I received this download to take the mushrooms, I was on a yoga retreat; I was in the middle of a full week immersed in yogic practices and teachings, deep in meditation in Costa Rica. When I came out off the retreat I was feeling very elevated, as is the usual effect of an immersion, but I knew that the mushrooms were calling me. My intention was to spend another week in Costa Rica at a beachfront hostel where I could continue with my sadhana and be close to nature while also being a little more social, to help integrate my inner work. And in the process of heading to the hostel where I was to stay, I came across a random stranger at the farmer’s market who asked me if I needed mushrooms. “Why, yes,” I said. The mushrooms had found me. Shortly after I encountered this man and received the mushrooms from him, I created my first “formal” (and private - just for me) mushroom ceremony, knowing what I had come to know by then about ritual and ceremony from my yogic path and development. After a decade of no use, this first mushroom ceremony for me marked the beginning of a more open-minded and mature perspective towards the role of plant medicine as seen from the perspective of my own unique path of healing and awakening.
Along my own path I’ve come to realize that there was a unique way that the medicine would find me. There would be the intuitive hit that it was time for a “journey”, and I could simply allow this feeling to be present and wait for life to deliver the journey. There were times where the intuition would eventually go away but there were also times where it was really strong and it felt that the spirit of the plant medicine seemed to really want to find me and work with me. At least this is the best way I can explain this process of feeling the call, coming into alignment with the plant, and the sort of pre-journey phase where the preparation is happening in order to fully receive the wisdom of the medicine. I think this is an important point to note, as at the end to the day the choice to use or not use plant medicine must come from a deep and authentic, self-responsible place. It need not be explained or rationalized, but it must be from the heart and it must be true for each individual. I believe this is the key for true empowerment and enlightened behaviors, or actions that lead to the awakening of our consciousness.
These short stories describing my journey - from inexperienced experimentation with mushrooms at a young age to working with them after a long time away from use - is just a brief history of the processes I went through. I’d dove deep into yoga and realized that yoga could help me clarify the goal, but then came back around to including plant medicine in my
process. I found myself once again on the bridge between the worlds of other traditions and paths. In the pursuit of understanding the mystical realms I’ve been brought to many different places and received many different answers to my questions. The path is interesting with its twists and turns, and our discoveries down these different rabbit holes may all one day finally merge into a single stream of undifferentiated consciousness. I believe they do, and I believe the rooting of oneself in a particular path is the key to this merging while also staying open to the different variations of love that present themselves through all the various teachings from different traditions and religion. In yoga, the main idea is to be able to hold a single idea in the mind with unbroken focus and attention. This is the meta-concept and ideal of this tradition. Unbroken focus. The yoga allows us to develop laser-like qualities of the mind, which is a very useful competency no matter where we are in the world and whatever we are doing. For me, the understanding of this has allowed me to really embrace the mystery of my journey, and to figure out what I need to do to best support my path. To penetrate to the depths of the unknown... yoga has given me the tools, the technology and the foundation to really “go there”. My journey has only just begun.
The return of mushrooms in my path marked the beginning of a deeper curiosity in me that led me to explore more with these experiences. I was able to go into my meditation and breathing practices from altered states and felt the substances useful allies in what I was understanding to be my ‘work’.
Working with Ayahuasca came next, after more years of practice and much further deliberation. Although there is more I can share, such as details around the inner processes of alignment that have brought to the bridges between worlds, I think what has so far been discussed is enough for this post. It gives an introduction and an overview. It has been a gradual and mindful process to reach a decision to work with plant medicine after periods of time of no use whatsoever (for any substance, even cutting out things like caffeine). Will I change my mind in the future? It is possible. Do I believe that, for now, plant medicine is an ally on my path? I do believe that. It has opened up channels for me to heal and grow in ways that are worth mentioning. I send gratitude to the teachings of all types, and to the inner teacher of us all that guides us along and brings us to the nuggets of wisdom that illuminate our path.
I have written this post in an attempt to do two things. One, to simply be honest and transparent about this sort of work; two, offer contemplation for those considering a path with plant medicine. And contemplate we must. I am still in contemplation, as the only thing I can truly advocate with supreme confidence is the path of the Self. This means that we know, deep down, who we are and why we are doing what we are doing. We must always have in clear view what our reasons are. Knowing the goal and mission is very important. Getting clear. Different paths and different traditions have their ways of assisting us, but only we can know our heart. Contemplation on these topics is helpful, and will keep us real. The mystical and esoteric realms can be alluring, but it important we have our base in Reality with the feet firmly planted on Earth, in alignment with Nature and with our Self. If there is a collective mission for us all, which I believe there is, then getting lost in the far away realms and dimensions of plant medicine will do little to bring healing to the world, and may only serve to distract us further. It will take a focused and honest attention to the processes invoked by plant medicine and attention into the nature of their healing effects to know when, where and how these allies might serve us. It is my wish to sharpen my own faculties of mind by the practices which I know help me do so, so that as I enter into my own shamanic journeys I know exactly what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. This is very important, I believe, and is a key ingredient to a successful (ie effective at producing an intended result) ceremony. I hope these points are received by all who are reading.
At the end of the day, I think plant medicine, such as mushrooms or Ayahuasca, can open doorways that were previously unopened. These openings can bring us into contact with the unseen and unknown parts of our reality which expand our perspective and often provides a healing affect. The healing affect is the result of us being taken beyond ourselves. Are there different ways to do this? Absolutely. Kundalini is the evolutionary energy of life that resides within us all. When the kundalini is awakened, we see beyond the veil. Trauma and self-limiting belief is transformed into pure creative energy. This is often what we think of when we think of “healing”. Yogic traditions teach the conceptual framework for what I am describing and different cultures around the world have their own descriptions of this process. Plant medicine and their ceremonial usage is one way in particular that gets the mind to open enough so that this healing energy can flow. Ultimately, we must choose how to align ourselves with the evolutionary energy of life - so that kundalini can flow, unobstructed. When we connect to our true inner sovereignty, free of conditioning from the world, we connect to the Self. This is what guides us - whether we are under the influence of plants or not.
The Soul of the world lies within us and there are many ways to make the connection to its essence. Whatever way we choose, we must learn how to listen to it, and be honest with ourselves about what we are hearing and how we are being guided. This takes practice. Meditation, self-inquiry and self-study will always be foundational ways to tune in and hear the subtleties of the inner word. Make decisions from an empowered place - a place of self responsibility, freedom, and choice - and the results will inevitably bring wisdom. Whatever the chosen path, ensure that you are walking it for yourself. Each step forward that you take, even if it is shaky and uncertain, will bring you more information about the world. This wisdom is invaluable as it is derived from your own choices and actions and not what is read in a book or heard in a story. Mistakes are simply lessons with a blessing. The biggest disease is fear. Inaction causes us to dwell in our own doubt and ignorance. Wisdom comes through our movements, which brings the light of understanding through trial and error. Over time, we learn to trust our heart and life as a whole. This is a good place to be.
Love and blessings to you all. May your path continue to be guided in all the ways that it is