PLANT MEDICINE

EDUCATION, SUPPORT, AND INTEGRATION

Interbeing presents a unique way to approach, prepare for, and integrate transformative spiritual experiences. This is because the language and insight of Interbeing is entirely focused on the profound shift in identity that is often at the core of such experiences. As experienced integration professionals - steeped in meditation practice, scientific theory, cultural wisdom, personal experience with plant medicines, and Interbeing communication - we offer our expertise to individuals who are 1. Curious about the potential or preparing for plant medicine experience 2. Have had an experience and want to discuss the insights, challenges, or lessons that arose in the context of Interbeing 3. Have had an experience and are are aiming to carry the lessons from the experience into their daily life. 

Tomas Frymann

BIOGRAPHY
As a surfer, academic, meditator, world traveler, student of philosophy, socially-oriented person, and general ‘yes-sayer’ I have explored what it means to live a good life from many angles. My doctoral research at Columbia University in the Psychology and Spirituality lab has been focused on the awareness of ‘Inter-Being’ – which refers to the sense that all people are unique and yet one with the universe (no more separate from the whole of creation than a wave is from the ocean). My research work has been focused on understanding and communication surrounding the shift from a sense of Separate Being to Inter-Being based identity.

I spent months working at an Ayahuasca treatment center, Rythmia, and have supported many individuals in their psychedelic experiences and integration. Across my work I value bringing forward an authentic, appreciative, and positive attitude, and striving to bridge the personal, professional, spiritual, and scientific worlds.




HOW I WORK
I aim to assist clients in preparation and drawing benefit from the many facets of life that psychedelics relate to – spanning   personal transformation, family dynamics, sense of purpose, integration, personal identity, relationship to death, and understanding of true self.  I share my enthusiasm and deep sense of joy and purpose with clients. In session I deeply listen to the client's unique experiences and questions - and in turn share my reflections, perspectives, and insights regarding the client's navigation of the profound and often radical shifts in consciousness and life quality that can arise from psychedelic experiences.

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Sophie Whitney

BIOGRAPHY
I assist individuals who have had a psychedelic experience and whom are looking to ground and integrate that experience into their day to day life. Psychedelic integration can be understood as the process one continuously undertakes to bolster the insights they gained from an experience and live from that place of new knowledge, insight, and understanding. Through this process, individuals are supported and guided to uncover new insights and meaning post-transformative experience. This support is also open to those who are preparing for a psychedelic experience. I received my M.A. in psychology from Columbia University’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute, am a certified yoga teacher and meditation teacher, and am currently pursuing my doctorate in clinical psychology. I have worked at Rythmia Life Advancement Center in Costa Rica (an ayahuasca retreat center) where I worked closely with the chief medical officer Dr. Jeff McNairy and owner and founder Gerry Powell. I have also worked for the Psychedelic Education and Continuing Care Program in New York City under Dr. Ingmar Gorman where I helped facilitate and participated in their Psychedelics 101 & 102 training led by Dr. Gorman and Dr. Elizabeth Neilson whom both work in psychedelic integration. In working together, integration becomes a practice in compassion, growth, and strength. I believe that integrating our psychedelic experiences is in service to both the individual and the collective, and that through the process we can find great joy and meaning.

HOW I WORK
I bring in mindfulness-based approaches, as much of my masters education focused on spirituality and the mind-body connection. Clients will be encouraged and supported to feel both expansive and grounded through customized means of approach. Each individual is unique, but we all share a desire to connect with our experience of ourselves, others, and the world on a deeper and more meaningful level.

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General Psychedelics Q&A

What is the difference between the term ‘psychedelic’ and ‘plant medicine’?

‘Psychedelic’ and ‘plant medicine’ are interestingly similar terms.  For example, Ayahuasca can be referred to as either a psychedelic or as a plant medicine. The term psychedelic is derived from the Greek words psychē (soul) and dēloun (to reveal), translating to "mind-revealing."  The difference that sets apart the term ‘plant medicine’ is the reference to an explicit intention to heal.  The intention to heal is apparent in the setting and context that an individual selects. For example, the term plant medicine is used in ceremonial contexts, which frequently include ritualistic healing practices.Also, not all psychedelics are plant medicines, and not all plant medicines are psychedelics.  Psychedelics such as MDMA and LSD are not plant medicines because they are not derived from plants. Plant medicines such as opiates or herbs are not psychedelics because either they are not used for healing or are not ‘mind revealing.’

What are plant medicines?

In the broadest sense, a plant medicine is any plant used to cure illness. Plant medicines can be divided into two general categories: 1.  Curative of the mind  2.  Curative of the body. On our site we specifically discuss plant medicines that are curative of the mind. In the broadest sense, a plant medicine is any plant used to cure illness. It can be useful to think of plant medicines as falling into two categories: 1.  Curative of the mind  2.  Curative of the body.  The health of the mind and the body are highly related, so a medicine that treats the body will usually also improve the condition of the mind, and vice versa - but the distinction is still useful because the effects of both types are very different.  Plants used to treat the mind typically function via neurotransmitters and have strong effects on an individual’s conscious experience, while plants used to treat the body typically target the immune system and have less direct mental effects.  Examples of plant medicines used to cure the mind include Ayahuasca, Psilocybin, and Iboga.  Examples of plant medicines used to cure the body include sage or aloe.  When we refer to plant medicines on our site we are referring to those used for mental health.

What does ‘healing’ mean in reference to plant medicine’s effect on the mind?

When considering what it means for plant medicine to heal the mind, the first question that might come up is: what is damage to the mind?  Let’s think of it this way: any changes in someone’s psychology that create a lasting negative impact on their well-being. Damage to the mind can be very minor or very severe.  

Take a theoretical girl named Sally for example. A rambunctious teenager could drive by and give Sally the middle finger for no reason, briefly painting her psychology with slightly more anxiety and unhappiness. This would be a minor case of ‘damage to the mind.’  Alternatively, if Sally is the victim of sexual abuse it could create a long lasting change in her psychological processing of intimate contexts, making her more fearful and unhappy for years following.  A more severe case of ‘damage to the mind.

’Healing damage to the mind is like healing damage to the body. The damaged area undergoes helpful changes to return it to its original state of health. In the first case for example, Sally might laugh a moment later when she learns that the rambunctious teenager was not giving her the finger, but was directing an obnoxious greeting to his friend behind her.  In Sally’s case, plant medicine was not necessary to heal the minor trauma, but it is useful to think of how the healing happened. She saw why things around her were happening, and realized that her negative emotions were an accidental product of temporarily not seeing the larger context. Healing caused by plant medicines happens similarly. They heal by taking away egocentric biases and by showing us a bigger and more clear picture of things.  In healing, the egocentric biases relate to our assessment of trauma.  In mind expansion egocentric biases relate to our existential beliefs.

What is an ‘entheogen’?

Entheogen, in Greek, literally means “becoming the divine within.” Let’s break it down. En means "within,” theo means "god,” and gen means "be born, produce.” So that is “producing god within.” Upon ingestion these chemical compounds can induce states that are described as transcendent, awakening to a sense of something greater, or feeling the presence of god. The significance of using the word entheogen is in emphasizing the spiritual experiences that they initiate. The term entheogen and psychedelic are generally interchangeable but ‘entheogen’ highlights the objective of the substance.

Why should I choose plant medicine over other spiritual practices?

The most notable characteristic of plant medicines is the rapidity with which they can bring people to very high states of spiritual experience. The unique challenge that comes with the use of plant medicines is sustaining spiritual growth.  The common metaphor used with spiritual growth is that of climbing a mountain - there are many paths to the top. Using that metaphor, plant medicines can be thought of as similar to having a map.  While a map is good for giving insight on what the outlay of the mountain looks like, the map will not walk you up the mountain. That is work that you need to do yourself.

What are the types of results that people are looking for in using plant medicines?

Most people who seek out a plant medicine experience are ready to experience a shift of some sort. Perhaps this shift comes in the form of a new perspective, a greater sense of self-acceptance, an expanded consciousness, more connectedness in personal relationships, or simply more clarity in some area of their life. Many individuals hope to resolve issues that repeatedly come up and work unconsciously in their life. These issues that need to be addressed may be interfering with their full potential or their inner peace and happiness.

How do the results of plant medicine use differ from people’s expectations?

1.  For those who have never had a spiritual experience (and often for those who have) it can be much more profound than they may have even thought possible. 
2.  For those who have not addressed the trauma in their past, it can come surging up with unexpected force.
3. There may be unexpected visual phenomena such as geometric imagery or patterns
4. It may be very 'underwhelming' if the dose is low or the effect does not come on strongly, especially when expectations are very high
5. It's not the 'magic bullet' that solves all your problems - a lot of the work is in the after integration of taking the learnings into daily life
6. Because unconscious material comes up it's often things you didn't expect or plan for
7. With Ayahuasca, it's possible for an entirely challenging experience with no blissful moments

Is the significance of using plant medicine more about the experience or the result?

The types of experience one can have on plant medicine vary greatly. Our general understanding is that people pursuing plant medicine are looking for sustainable outcomes that will have a positive impact on their life. While the experience itself can be one of the most mind-bending and intense experiences of one’s life, the way in which that experience affects your life in the long-term is the real measure of its profundity. The results can be dependent on the intensity of the experience; the more information packed into the experience, the more results you have to work with.

Magic Mushrooms Q&A

Exploration
What are magic mushrooms?

'Magic Mushrooms' are a group of naturally growing mushrooms that contain the active ingredient Psilocybin. The 'magic' comes from the effect of psilocybin on the serotonin hormones in the brain, which causes a variety of effects which tend to include elevated mood, enhanced emotions, altered visual sensations, and perhaps most magically, what can only be described as the feeling of experiencing God or the transcendence of self.

What does research say about mushroom use?

The findings that have emerged from recent scientific studies indicate that Psilocybin Mushrooms may:
1. Cause an increase in the personality trait 'Openness to Experience.'
2. Decrease depression and anxiety in terminally ill patients.
3. Decrease fear of death.
4. Help with addiction to alcohol.
5. Create a temporary feeling of self-transcendence qualitatively similar to that reported by long term mediators.
6. And are not addictive, and do not cause harm to mental health, psychological functioning, or cognitive functioning

What are the important precautions?

There is the obvious precaution - don't drive. Also don't go near heights, or if you do make absolutely sure that you have someone level headed with you. This is a commonly sited danger that isn't too frequently explained. The reason for this is that the alteration of consciousness that occurs with mushrooms could be interpreted by an individual as the idea that he or she must be in a dream, and therefore can fly. This is possible but unlikely, and can be prevented by taking the necessary precautions - avoiding high areas, reminding yourself not to go near high places, and having a level headed friend nearbye.

Another very important precaution, in terms of avoiding a harrowing experience, is to not fall into the trap of drinking alcohol at a party and then making the decision to take mushrooms. This is by far the most common story involving mushrooms and a bad trip. This happens for a number of reasons. First, just as much as alcohol creates a mind state happy to make stupid decisions, mushrooms creates a mind state that does not like alcohol and its effects. Second, it is particularly important to feel very comfortable with the people you are surrounded by and it is likely that there will be a lot of people who don't fit that qualification in a alcohol drinking setting. Third, mushrooms are suited for self exploration and connection to nature, and engaging in those activities is what creates a good time. Taking mushrooms at a party is like drinking a Redbull to try to fall asleep - a very misguided usage.

Lastly, mushrooms tend to elevate mood, but they also generally amplify any emotion present. So, if you are already having negative emotions be prepared for the possibility that they may also be amplified. If you are intending to work with these emotions that can be ok as long as you are prepared to mindfully accept what comes up. With cases of strong pre-existing mental conditions it is best to have a trained psychologist or experienced user to help guide your experience.

The Most Important Thing to Know?

The most important part of the experience is not primarily about having funny visual experiences or elated emotions. The true magic is in experiencing the feeling of self-transcendence. Experiencing this feeling connects any particular self to the whole universe at large in an unprecedented way, which is the most valuable experience anyone can have. It creates a feeling of being part of something larger than the self, of fearlessness about death, of compassion for all creatures, and of connection to nature. These feelings can be carried on into daily life and create a sustainable form of joy that many people who have had experiences with psilocybin rank as among the five most important experiences of their lifetime. While the immediate sensations that occur during the experience may be pleasurable, those pleasures will come and go and should not be clung to. It is the greater and more sustainable benefit of experiencing interconnectedness and self-transcendence that is the greatest gift of magic mushrooms.
Also 1. Nature: take them in nature and 2. Trust: be with trusted friends / a trusted guide

Preparation
Best Preparation for a journey?

1.  Intention:  Have an intention for what you want to experience, address, explore, or heal.  As in life, your journey will likely take many unlikely twists and turns, but having the intended direction is important for setting you out down the first steps and bringing a mindful sense of purpose into the journey. The intention to explore and experience a feeling of interconnectedness with something much grander than the self, and in so doing to become more selfless and joyful, is a possible suggestion.

2.  Ritual:  Find your own way to respect the mushroom that you are going to ingest. In whatever way suits you, find a sense of gratitude and awe for the fact that this little piece of nature is about to become a part of you and will help you understand and connect with the universe around you in an unprecedented way.

3.  Integration:  Commit a full day after the ceremony to integrating your experience.  Without dedicating time to integration the invaluable lessons that you learn can be lost into the churning bin of your memory.  It is important to consciously focus on how your experience can be used to help bring you toward your goals in life.

4. Mindfulness: Allow your mind to relax. Notice how it may be responding to the prospect of the journey ahead of you. If you notice any mental patterns that are not helpful to you, allow them to pass. Allow positivity to flow into the experience. Also keep in mind that all challenging experiences are an opportunity for personal growth, a chance to identify what is triggering you and progress towards a point where you can understand yourself and situation to the extent that you are no longer triggered.

What are the range of effects that tend to occur?

There a few different types of experiences that tend to occur:

1. Self-Transcendence: This is described as an 'oceanic dissolution of identity into the ground of being.' It is metaphorically like making the transformation from identifying as being a wave to identifying as being ocean; waves exist but are really just arbitrary boundaries drawn onto a large and continuous ocean. Similarly selves exist but are really just arbitrary boundaries drawn onto a large and continuous universe.

2. Emotions: Emotions are likely to become elevated, whether it be joy, sadness, appreciation, confusion, delight, or any other emotion.

3. Thoughts: Pace of thoughts tends to quicken, with attention shifting faster than normal. The feeling like 'wow there are so many fascinating things to attend to I can't think about them all at once' might come up.

4. Physical: Its possible to have some stomach discomfort as the mushrooms are being processed.

5. Appreciation: Feelings of intense love and appreciation are common, especially in nature and with good friends.

In Nature vs City?

Nature: The common wisdom is choose nature. The feeling of amazement, appreciation, and connection that comes from being in nature during a psilocybin session is unique and invaluable. In comparison it is much easier to feel overstimulated and distraught in the city. In nature you are pretty much guaranteed to have a good experience.

City: The city does, however, offer many potential opportunities for wonder and wisdom. Churches, museums, parks, and art exhibits for example are good settings to choose from. However, it is good to keep in mind that the feeling of any particular setting will likely be very amplified, and nature almost always offers the most purely positive feelings. You never know if the art exhibit you choose to go to will have some disturbing pieces, or if you will run into a group of angry fundamentalists on the way to church.

Suggested Activities?

Here are some suggested activities. Think about what you naturally feel drawn towards, and what feels both safe and engaging.

1. Backpacking: Amazing for nature emersion. Keep in mind that your sense of direction may be reduced, be very careful with heights, bring enough food and water, tell someone about your plans.

2. Snorkeling: Wonderful to peer into the underwater world and float through the water. Have a wetsuit ready if you want to be in the water for a long while.

3. Horseback Riding: Gallop down the beach, or through the woodlands, on top of a living creature.

4. Aquarium: Gaze at amazing sea creatures. Keep in mind that you will be in a public space (extreme amazement or laughter might seem a bit odd to others around you).

5. Cloud Gazing: Watch the winds make billowing creatures out of the clouds. Take some sunglasses with filtered lenses for extra enjoyment.

6. Animals: Spend time appreciating the existence of another living creature. The zoo might be a good option, but it may also feel very sad to see the animals in this context (which may actually contribute to your sense of empathy). Find an animal you can be close to, like a cow, horse, or dog.

7. Churches: Bask in the spiritual energy of a building dedicated to the greater something we are a part of. Don't disturb the church goers.

8. Art: Appreciation the expression of mind that someone else has created. Watch out for pieces that will make you feel emotions you wouldn't want to feel in an amplified emotion state.

9. Sensory Deprivation Tank: Float in spaceless, feelingless, timeless state and explore the depths of your mind. Make sure you feel completely comfortable and safe.

10. Music: Listen to patterns of air vibrations that whisk you away into a landscape of feelings. Remember that being around a lot of people might feel very uncomfortable, so rather than going to a big concert think about going to the beach or laying down with eye shades on your couch.

Experience
How Long Does it Last?

The effects of psilocybin usually last between 6 to 8 hours. The first effects are typically felt within 30 to 60 minutes after consumption and peak at around 90 minutes. After the peak there is a gradual decline in intensity for the remainder of the time. Within 48 hours 100% of the psilocybin has been filtered out of the body.

What’s the Right Dosage?

At a mild level (1-2 grams dried for normal sensitivity) of experience patterns are likely to change, emotions are likely to be more intense, mood is likely to be slightly elevated, there may be more appreciation for colors, music, art, and nature.

At a moderate level (2 -3 grams dried) of experience the experience of self is likely to change such that one feels much more interconnected with the universe. The previously mentioned effects all tend to increase.

At a high level (4+ grams dried) of experience one's experience of consciousness changes drastically. Changes may occur such as feeling a complete merger of one's sense of self with the universe at large.  Involved in this may be ‘ego death’ and the complete release of identity - which has the potential to be anxiety inducing, but may also go very smoothly.  Release into the process is the best path towards a smooth journey.  ‘Trust the process’ is a good mantra to keep in mind.

Will I Have a Positive Experience?

If you are naturally in a relatively good mood, you are in a good setting (such as nature with friends), and you take a reasonable dosage, you are almost guaranteed to have a positive experience. The shorthand is 'set and setting' (create a good mindset and a good physical setting).

The Value of Positive Experiences?

The most important part of the experience is not having funny visual experiences or emotions. It is in experiencing the feeling of self-transcendence. Experiencing this feeling connects any particular self to the whole universe at large in an unprecedented way, which is the most valuable experience anyone can have. It creates a feeling of being part of something larger than the self, of fearlessness about death, of compassion for all creatures, and of connection to nature. These feelings can be carried on into daily life and create a sustainable form of joy that many people who have had experiences with psilocybin rank as among the five most important experiences of their lifetime. While the immediate sensations that occur during the experience may be pleasurable, those pleasures will come and go and should not be clung to. It is the greater and more sustainable benefit of experiencing interconnectedness and self-transcendence that is the greatest gift of magic mushrooms.

Getting out of a dark place?

There are three most important things to keep in mind regarding bad experiences:
1.  Attention: shift your attention to a new focal object.  For example ask yourself ‘what is the most beautiful thing in my immediate vicinity’?’
2.  Curiosity: get curious about why the challenge is coming up.  Rather than resist, get curious.
3.  Interpretation: Keep in mind that every challenge is an opportunity to grow. 
4. Acceptance: Practice relaxing and accepting whatever feelings arise.
5. Will: Take the opportunity to make a willful act to change your circumstances if you are in a bad place. Walk outside, put on some music, talk to a friend, etc.  Change things up.

Common Pitfalls?

Here are a two pitfalls to watch out for:

1. Getting Drunk and Taking Mushrooms: Don't be another person who says 'I took mushrooms after drinking and had a horrible trip.' Rather be the person who says 'I took mushrooms with my best friend / spouse in the forest and it was incredible.'

2. Guidance and Interpretation: Your mind is constantly trying to interpret what it is experiencing. When you have an absolutely new type of experience it will be doing its best to understand what just happened and fit it into its preexisting models of understanding. This creates a state known as 'Openness to Suggestibility,' in which your mind is searching for an explanation of its experience and so it jumps onto the first suggestion available. It is thus very important to find ways to do things like have constructive materials ready to go for the interpretation phase (religious or spiritual texts for example), to have someone wise to talk to, or to discover your own constructive interpretations and challenge any interpretations that do not help you. For example, three people may experience the sense of being part of something much grander. The first may say this proves that Jesus Christ is the savior. The second may say we are in The Matrix. The third may conclude that he is interconnected with all beings. All three had the same experience but different interpretations. Be wise and surround yourself with contexts that facilitate good interpretations. You could think of it like opening yourself up to get something treated... you definitely want to put some healthy treatment in once you are open, not a whole bunch of dirt or toxins.

The Most Important Thing to Know?

The most important part of the experience is not primarily about having funny visual experiences or elated emotions. The true magic is in experiencing the feeling of self-transcendence. Experiencing this feeling connects any particular self to the whole universe at large in an unprecedented way, which is the most valuable experience anyone can have. It creates a feeling of being part of something larger than the self, of fearlessness about death, of compassion for all creatures, and of connection to nature. These feelings can be carried on into daily life and create a sustainable form of joy that many people who have had experiences with psilocybin rank as among the five most important experiences of their lifetime. While the immediate sensations that occur during the experience may be pleasurable, those pleasures will come and go and should not be clung to. It is the greater and more sustainable benefit of experiencing interconnectedness and self-transcendence that is the greatest gift of magic mushrooms.
Also 1. Nature: take them in nature and 2. Trust: be with trusted friends / a trusted guide

integration
how do integrate the experience into my daily life?

1. Meditation: Plant medicine reveals to us different facets of our own consciousness. Similarly, meditation opens up a space to explore our mind. Just like plant medicine, our own inner awareness can guide us to areas of our sense of self that hinder us or serve us. Meditation is a tool to navigate our psyche with non-judgement and the intention of self improvement and growth.

2. Journaling: Keeping track of what continues to stick out to you, or what pieces of your experience remain pertinent to your everyday life is a beneficial tool to staying proactive with the information or insights you received.

3. Reading up on relevant material: Continue to engage with the experience. Read books or articles that encourage your growth and educate you about the process when you have engaged in plant medicine work.

4. Therapy: You’re only human. Don’t be afraid to ask for support if you find your self having challenges with interpreting your experience. Meeting with a therapist can be constructive in continuing to “make sense” of your experience, or to just dive deeper into what was revealed to you.

5. Committed Action: A huge part of integrating the experience is taking the realizations that you’ve had during the experience and continuing to commit to actions that align with that realization.

communicating about my experience?

1.  Find a like minded community:  It is much easier to communicate about your experience with other people who have shared similar experiences.  They can help you learn integrate your experience, feel understood, and carry on the lessons that you have learned.

2.Know your audience: When speaking to someone religious, use religious language. When speaking to a New Age spiritual person, use New Age language. When speaking to an atheist, use atheist's language. For example, you could describe the same experience using the word ‘God,’ or the word ‘divine intelligence,’ or something like ‘higher power.. as in like what the body is to our cells.’

considerations for frequency ofuse?

The suggested wisdom from The Guild of Guides (experienced psilocybin guides) is once every 6 - 12 months is a good time frame, and not more than once per month.  Let the experience breath so that it can be worked into your life. Also, consider the following:

1.  Gut Feeling:  The best guide to knowing whether another experience is right for you is your gut feeling.  Your gut feeling is another way of saying your considerations taking everything into account, not just those factors that you can explicitly identify.  Only you have the complete knowledge of all of the factors that will affect you.  Trust yourself and your feelings.

2.  Time:  The more time you take, the more opportunity you will have to integrate your previous experience, apply the lessons you learned to your life, and find out what new questions arise. If you find yourself wanting to increase frequency beyond the suggested use check in with your motives.

3. Life Situation: If you happen to be on the beach in Thailand with plenty of free time available your considerations are going to be different than if you are in a busy period of life with lots of stresses. If you are seeking guidance and insight on a major life choice it may be a better time to explore your internal situation with a session at home on the couch than if you are on a family vacation.

4. Non-Addictive: mushrooms are not addictive. They do not work directly on dopamine circuits (which addictive drugs do). They also self-regulate.  If you start taking them too often you will likely have overtime less positive and potentially more challenging experiences, and will not take them for fun anymore.

Common myths?

Here are two common myths about psilocybin mushrooms:

1. Mushrooms Cause Mental Health Problems: A 2007 study published in Nature journal analyzed data on lifetime drug use and frequency of mental health problems of 21,967 individuals and found that the use of psilocybin had no effect on the frequency of mental health problems. The myth arises from a few different places. First is the culture that was associated with psychedelic use during the 70's; the ethos of the time was to drop out of all responsibilities and rebel against mainstream culture. The poverty, disease, and stress caused by accompanying poor life choices did have an impact on people's mental health. Second is that people are generally fearful of what they don't understand. Psychedelics are very hard to understand so people tend to be fearful. The media then feeds the fear with sensationalistic accounts of mishaps involving psychedelics. Third is the residual impact of blatantly false propaganda spread by the government during Reagan's 'War on Drugs.' Fourth is the real association between drug use at large and mental health problems. Other drugs such as cocaine and alcohol actually do increase the odds of developing mental health problems. The blanket statement is then made that all drugs increase the chances of mental health problems. When looking at psilocybin specifically, however, that statement is not true. There needs to be more distinction in the category of drug taken and what effects are. After all, you wouldn't lump your daily coffee and heroin together, say they are all drugs, and call it a day.

2. Mushrooms Stay in Your System: 100% of the psilocybin you intake is guaranteed to be flushed from your system within 48 hours. The reason that people might feel like something stays is because the memory of the experience stays and your brain is trying to decipher what that experience means. The meaning you find in that interpretation can have a strong bearing on the way you see the world. If, for example, you have the experience of things being completely interconnected in a profound and mysterious way, the next day you might continue to feel that way because a different idea about the world is still prominent in your mind.

Role of Magic Mushrooms for Humanity?

There are many researched benefits of psilocybin including treatment for depression and anxiety, alleviation of fear of death, increased openness to experience. However, the effect which makes the psilocybin experience one of the five most valuable experiences of a lifetime for 86% of research participants is what is called its 'entheogenic effect.' This describes the generation of feeling God within one's self. This feeling of a connection to the universe is so important on the global stage because our world and our lives are so often dominated by self-centeredness. Having the experience of being part of something much greater can bring purpose and joy on an individual scale, and hopefully peace and sustainability on a larger scale.

Ayahuasca Q&A

Exploration
What is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a powerful plant medicine which has been used by people indigenous to the Amazon rainforest for thousands of years. It is not actually one substance, but is the combination of two components - the vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and the chakruna leaf (Psychotria viridis). The chakruna plant contains DMT (Dimethyl Tryptamine) and the vine contains MAO inhibitors called harmala alkaloids. Your body naturally contains DMT, but it usually doesn't reach the brain because MAO breaks down the DMT. The MAO inhibitors in the vine prevent the usual breakdown of DMT. This allows it to reach the brain, which causes its effects - which frequently include visions, heightened emotions, a profound connection to nature, and entheogenic experiences ('en' - 'theo' - 'genic' meaning generating God within).

Why is it beneficial for me?

1.  Ayahuasca brings the truth forward.  Many people are not aware of the ways that they suppress things that they do not want to confront, which is always to their detriment.  Ayahuasca improves quality of life by shining light on the various aspects of people’s lives which have been disharmonious.

2.  Ayahuasca connects you to nature.  We often feel that we are separate from nature, that we did not arise from nature.  Ayahuasca brings people the profound feeling that we are a part of nature, and brings us into harmony with the natural order of the universe.

3. Ayahuasca connects you to your own emotions.  We often disassociate from our emotions because we believe they are too painful to face, or because we feel that they are unacceptable.  Ayahuasca helps bring your life in line with your emotions.

should I invest my time?

The question of whether it is worth the time is relatively dwarfed by the significance of the experience. It's sort of like if you were choosing whether or not to have a baby, and you asked the question 'is it worth taking my time to make one?' Obviously the fruits of what you will bear, and the context of the situation, are much more important than the time investment required of the love making. If you feel that you have the courage, curiosity, and compassion to awaken to a more significant and universal level of consciousness, than it is certainly worth the time.

Is it legal?

In the case of Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, the Supreme Court deemed deemed religious use of Ayahuasca to be legal under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (legal for officially sanctioned religious use).  However, use of DMT (the active ingredient in Ayahuasca) is generally illegal in the United States.  In Spain, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, Chile Ayahuasca is explicitly legal for all use.  Ayahuasca is also sanctioned by the International Narcotics Control Board.

Is it addictive?

Ayahuasca is not addictive.  Addictive drugs activate the dopaminergic system by means of the neurotransmitter dopamine.  Activation of the dopaminergic system is what creates intense feelings of pleasure, and leads to craving and withdrawal symptoms.  Ayahuasca does not regulate the dopaminergic system, and therefore does not directly cause feelings of pleasure and is not addictive.

Can it help with addictions?

Although there are other plants that are specifically sought out for confronting addiction (such as iboga, indigenous to Africa), Ayahuasca can have some profound effects when dealing with addiction to substances. Because Ayahuasca is known for taking people to “the root of the problem,” there is hopeful evidence that deep rooted substance abuse issues could be addressed through the use of this plant medicine. Powerful experiences with plant medicine can serve as a catalyst for recovering from addiction, but there are no guarantees. It is not a plant medicine that should be used with the expectation to cure or eradicate an addiction to substances. For someone interested in rehabilitation around addiction, Iboga may be the plant medicine to look into further. (include links to information on Iboga)

why isn't it mainstream?

While Ayahuasca has seen a dramatic increase in usage over the past decade, we still don't see Ayahuasca on tap at bars or being discussed in the checkout line at the grocery store or debated over in presidential elections. There are a few likely reasons for this. First and foremost, the process of uprooting egocentrism, which typically occurs through Ayahuasca use, is often extremely challenging. Not everyone is willing to face themselves in such a deep way. Second, the experience often involves throwing up. Enough said. Third, Ayahuasca use in the west practically exploded overnight, but extremely wise and experienced shamans are not a commodity that can simply arise out of thin air to match the new demand. This limits the quality of experience that people will have with the plant, and report to others, which in turn limits the overall use and popularity of Ayahuasca ceremonies. Fourth, Ayahuasca is best mixed with being deeply immersed in nature, which can be difficult and daunting for many modern people, who are surrounded by artificial structures and have strong attachments to cushy beds and hot showers. For all of these reasons Ayahuasca has remained relatively out of the mainstream spotlight. Yet despite all of these reasons it has been dramatically increasing in popularity, featured in many news articles including the New York Times, discussed on TV shows, and championed by numerous celebrities.

important precautions?

1.  Medications: Absolutely do not take ayahuasca if you have taken any SSRI, Benzodiazepine, or Opiate in the last 100 days (Serotonin Syndrome danger)

2. Mental Health: Individuals with a history of schizophrenia should be very cautious if choosing to explore ayahuasca. There are a few shamans who have experience working with these cases and claim that it can help, but an a high degree of caution should be employed in such cases. The main concern for individuals with other mental health conditions is that the experience can amplify the issues as they are purged. It is therefore very important to have a highly qualified shaman to guide the process as the emotions come out.

3.  Commitment: Individuals not fully committed to the potential of facing any of their trauma or emotional issues should be aware that there is a likelihood that they will have to face such aspects of themselves during a ceremony.

4. Intention: Individuals who do not have respect for the plant, and the process as a form of personal growth and communion with nature, should take time to investigate their intentions. Individuals who believe the experience is a form of extreme recreation will be ill-equipped to face the potential difficulties that arise during the experience. Intention is like armor during the experience, and if the intentions are not right the individual will be vulnerable.

history of use in indigenous cultures?

Indigenous Amazonian peoples have been using Ayahuasca for over 5,000 years. There is an extensive history of use across cultures, with varied practices. The following elements are not true of each culture's type of use, but are important themes that emerge across cultures:

1. Respect: There is great importance in respecting Ayahuasca. The brew carries with it a deep and sacred connection to life. Respecting the plant components as they are harvested, respecting the process of ingestion, and respecting the experience all carry with them a respect for the sacred connection to life. That respect is inevitably reflected back into the inner mind during the experience and translates to respect for one's self. It is very important to understand and feel. If you do not feel or understand why the brew and ceremony should be respected do not feel ashamed, but rather genuinely ask the shaman or another individual who you trust to provide you with greater insight.

2. Tradition: In their repeated rites and rituals many cultures have endowed a respect for the plant and experience. This gives a sense of history, mystery, appreciation, and commradery with all of those who have shared in the experience before. As such traditions are extremely valuable containers for the experience.

3. Guidance: The shaman, or Ayahuasquero, is a part of the overarching tradition and and important element in providing all of the same aspects of value. Additionally, the shaman is present in order to provide guidance, useful interpretation of experiences, and direct support when needed.

4. Nature: As as wise shaman once told me, when you consume Ayahuasca "you are drinking nature." Nature is a key element of the ceremonial experience across cultures. The experience is a direct return to that sense of natural being from which we emerge. It is therefore ideal to be in the physical presence of nature during the experience.

the most important thing to know?

Ayahuasca is not a quick fix. While some people may seek out an ayahuasca experience with the desire to “heal” or “overcome” something, it requires one to be willing to invest time in self improvement and reflection following the experience. One must be ready to face all the “baggage” that they may have, and this calls forward courage, honesty and vulnerability. There is a popular tagline in the plant medicine world that states “it’s like 10 years of psychotherapy in one night.” While this may be true in some cases, 10 years of information requires a whole lot of integration and reflection too. Keep in mind, while a lot may get packed into a night, “it can’t all happen over night.” The experiences one can have with ayahuasca demand great responsibility when one returns home.

Preparation
best preparation for a ceremony?

1.  Intention:  Have an intention for what you want to experience, address, explore, or heal.  As in life, your journey will likely take many unlikely twists and turns, but having the intended direction is important for setting you out down the first steps and bringing a mindful sense of purpose into the journey.

2.  Dieta:  Follow the diet.  The diet helps make the medicine more effective and also settles your stomach.

3.  Integration:  Commit a full day after the ceremony to integrating your experience.  Without dedicating time to integration the invaluable lessons that you learn can be lost into the churning bin of your memory.  It is important to consciously focus on how your experience can be used to help bring you toward your goals in life.

4.  Mindfulness:  Allow your mind to relax.  Notice how it may be responding to the prospect of the journey ahead of you.  If you notice any mental patterns that are not helpful to you, allow them to pass.

range of experiences ?

There are generally four types of experiences that can occur. Many plant guides refer to this as the “four visions.” An individual can experience one, two, three, or all of these “visions” in one evening.

1.) The Non-Experience: This is where “nothing” happens. It is possible for an individual to feel like the medicine did not alter their experience at all. In these cases the experience may be subtle but still have the potential to be profound. Shamans may interpret the plant as operating at a stage of consciousness that is out of present awareness.

2.) The Consulta: This is when the plant medicine manifests as a voice. Someone may feel as though they are being spoken to like they would by their own mother or a therapist. Often this voice will provide clear and concise information or insights. It may feel like you are in a therapy session, as one may be able to ask questions and receive answers, guidance and advice.

3.) The Pinturas: This is the visual manifestation of the plant medicine. The “pinturas” or paintings may appear as geometric designs, a movie-like reel, manipulation or distortion of existing things in the space. These may appear with eyes closed or open.

4.) The Physical Purge: Subquestion: What is the value of each experience?

suggested diet?

The traditional diet suggested before an ayahuasca ceremony is referred to as the “dieta.” Some ayahuasca centers (usually the more traditional ones) will have a required dieta, others will provide a suggested dieta. Basically, the simpler foods the better. Your body will be going through a lot during the experience, so the lighter and the less harsh the foods are the best. In general, a strict dieta asks that you eliminate caffeine, refined sugars and sweeteners, processed foods, fermented foods, salt, dairy, meat, wheat, hot spices, fried foods, and of course no alcohol.

importance of keeping the diet?

Imagine that you are treating your body as a temple, ingesting purer and cleaner foods facilitates a greater respect for your physical body and the ayahuasca itself. It is typically suggested that you start this dieta a week prior to the plant medicine work and continue it during the duration.

what if I have a bad experience?

Many people have challenging experiences with Ayahuasca that may involve emotions of fear, anxiety, sadness, confusion, or overwhelming.  The intensification of such feelings that comes from the actual Ayahuasca will always pass within 24 hours.  In the rare cases that such emotions continue to be intensified after the experience it is not caused by the continued presence of Ayahuasca in the body, because it has already been flushed through the system.  Rather, it is because that individual is having a challenge integrating their experience.  The brain is trying to fit the event into its framework of understanding and resistances may be blocking the integration process.  It is therefore very important to have a solid plan for integration and openness to the experience.  There are a number of reasons not to be afraid of having a bad experience however.  First, the research shows that mental illness does not increase.  Second, the greatest challenges are also the greatest opportunities to grow.

How can I try to have a good experience?

People will often mention the importance of set and setting. While environment and atmosphere are part of the setting, the state of mind is a key part of the setting as well. Going into the experience with an understanding that you have a choice to take away lessons and value from whatever may come up, can be key to initiating a “good” or meaningful experience. If there is a practice that you engage in (meditation, yoga, journaling, swimming) that brings peace or relaxation to your mental or inner landscape, this may serve as a good preparation for a good experience. Come to terms with the fact that the experience alway provides an opportunity to grow, and with that information any experience can be “good” or at the very least, valuable.

Experience
How long does it last?

The effects of Ayahuasca usually last between 4 to 6 hours.  The first effects are typically felt within 30 to 45 minutes after taking the drink, and peak at around 90 minutes.

How does a shaman determine dosage?

1.  Energy:  The most important factor is the shaman’s feeling of what dosage is appropriate for a particular individual based on the their sense of that particular individual’s emotional energy.

2.  Experience:  Inexperienced users are less familiar with their sensitivity and mental capacity to handle deeper experiences, and are typically recommended lower doses.

3. Size:  Larger body’s tend to require more Ayahuasca for equivalent effects.

4.  Sex:  Males tend to require more Ayahuasca for equivalent effects.

5.  Trauma:  when working with someone with high levels of trauma it is safer to give successive small doses during the ceremony to prevent a full blown breakdown from happening

change of experience with dose?

The effect of Ayahuasca varies greatly between individuals, whether they are small or tall, young or old. That said, there are some trends in differences that occur as dosage increases. On a pragmatic level, at higher doses vomiting is more likely. On a more ethereal level, one's sense of time, space, and personal identity tends to shift more dramatically.

physcial effects?

Vomiting, crying, and yawning are all common during Ayahuasca ceremonies.  Body tremors are less common but also possible.  These are all forms of emotional energy being expressed through the body.  In ceremonial contexts the release of such energy through the body is referred to as ‘purging.’

Will I have a positive experience?

Your experience will be a deep reflection of some part of your mind. Your mind contains the latent potential for the good and the bad, both of which are valuable to experience. Experiencing what is labeled as 'bad' is really a guide towards harmonizing an aspect of your life which you feel out of tune with. Experiencing the good is at face value simply pleasant, but can also can provide a sense of clarity about moving towards positive values and experiences.  You are likely, but not guaranteed, to experience both the good and the bad in a very heightened sense.

value of positive experiences?

When someone experiences an extremely challenging experience, often their take away is as simple as, “I learned I am more resilient than I thought, after all I made it through it.” Similarly, the experience of joy, expansion, or positivity simply reminds an individual that these states of being are accessible to them. The spectrum of experiences is vast, and just like a good memory, we have that positive experience as a reference point or reminder for the rest of our lives.

sustaining a positive state during the ceremony?

1.  Enjoy:  There are plenty of negative experiences that arise in the world.  When a positive experiences arises enjoy it!  Ultimately, we are all here to experience and share joy.

2.  Mindfulness:  Practicing non-judgmental acceptance of whatever experience comes up always improves the quality of that experience.  The opposite of non-judgemental acceptance is clinging and aversion, which in Buddhism are said to the the core of all suffering.  By clinging to positive experiences they are more likely to fade or turn negative.  By being averse to negative experiences they will cause more suffering when they do show up.

Wlll I have a negative experience?

You know the saying “it’s all relative?” When an experiencer goes to a place of fear, anxiety, or negativity, their scale at which they measure the high or low intensity of something may be broadening. In other words, the lower the low (fear, anxiety, negativity) the higher the highs (joy, expansion, positivity). This understanding from an experiential place can help us feel more gratitude. When we see that our fear is relatively minimal or bearable compared to that place we went to during the journey, perhaps we become more optimistic about our state of being.

brining yourself out of a dark place?

1. Intention.  State your intention very clearly.  Your experience is arising from your own mind.  Affirmatively stating your intention can help direct the manifestations of your mind.  For example, you may see a monstrous figure and feel scared. So, you bring attention to your intention - which is not to feel afraid.  It is to, let’s say, have better relationships.  So, you say to that monster ‘I am not here to be afraid, I am here to have better relationships.  So why is it that you are here?’  You suddenly see the monster in a different way, as a teacher rather than a spectre, and realize that it is a representation of your own dishonesty.

2.  Love.  Actively bring attention to loving your self.  All of the visions and mental experiences that arise in an Ayahuasca journey are aspects of your self.  You can increase your self love by bringing understanding to those parts of your self that appear to be threatening.  It’s like the movie Frankenstein... parts of yourself can arise and appear to be large threatening monsters, but when you bring understanding to them you will find out that they are actually good inside.  They were brought into being for a reason, and want to be loved just as much as anyone else does.

3. Non-Resistance: remember this phrase, "Your greatest difficulty is one step away from being your greatest strength." That single step is transforming your perspective to a place of curiosity. Asking, 'why is this difficulty arising and how can it be used to direct me towards a place of improvement?' This style of thought is an avenue of non-resistance that will do wonders for you when it clicks.

common pitfalls?

1. Bad Setting: You will likely feel hypersensitive to the setting. Make sure that you have chosen as good a setting as possible.. You are opening up in a deep way. The more open you are the more important it is that you are in a good environment. As a physical metaphor, if you open your mouth it's important that you aren't behind and exhaust pipe. If you open your body for surgery you want to make sure the doctors and the hospital room are clean. If you open your brain for surgery you want to make 100% certain that there are as few impurities in your presence as is physically possible. Plants can open your mind in a way that is very analogous, and when your mind is open it is the mental environment that is much more prone to become a part of you - just like when your body is open the physical environment is more prone to become a part of you. A natural setting and a trusted guide are possibly the most important aspects of a good mental environment. Opening up your mind in a confined artificial setting with poor guidance is like taking some dirty tools and asking someone off the street to do surgery on you.

2. Resistance: It is easy to forget to use challenging experiences as opportunities for growth. In the instance they can be consuming. Constantly keeping in mind curiosity and the self-empowerment to choose your own thoughts is helpful.

3. Peer Pressure: The decision to join an Ayahuasca ceremony is a profound decision. As such it should fully emerge from within oneself. Imagine your friend Johnny tells you that you should do Ayahuasca. You say ok, and you are in the journey having a blissful experience. You say to yourself, 'Oh thank you Johnny! Thank you this is wonderful!' You haven't realized that the joy is coming from within yourself. You alone have discovered that place. Or you go to a ceremony and it is extremely dark, and amidst the throes you can't stop thinking 'Why did I let Johnny talk me into this?!' You have given up accountability for your own inner self, and therefore get stuck in a state - blaming it on someone else rather than finding it within yourself to exploring and harmonizing what is there. Ayahuasca is a mirror to yourself and if you do not take your own responsibility for the experience you will not be able to skillfully navigate it.

Importance of the shaman?

1. Safety: Don’t try this at home kids. Your safety is of the utmost importance. Having someone in the space who is observing, available, and aware of the space and the people in it is key to holding a safe space.

2. Experience: A plant medicine guide or shaman most likely had to go through an initiation process that required being in many ceremonies with many different people that led them to a point where they were ready to hold the space for others. Having an experienced shaman allows people to trust that the person they are with is ready for anything to come up.

3. Guidance: Without a doubt the shaman who is leading the ceremony has personally taken the medicine enough times to understand it on a deep level. If someone is going through something difficult, the physical or verbal guidance and support of the shaman can help them through it or out of it.

4. Tradition: The ceremonial traditions have been going on for thousands of years, and that structure has remained for a reason. In this context, the importance of having a shaman hold the space also has to do with the traditional practices they include during ceremony. Shamans often perform healings during the ceremonies that are energetically beneficial for the participants. This includes the cleansing of the participants with burning sage, smoke from a peruvian tobacco (fact check :), or agua de fleurida (a perfumey liquid used by traditional South American shamans).

Integration
Scientific research on the effects?

Ayahuasca is an Amazonian psychoactive plant beverage containing the serotonergic 5-HT2A agonist N,N-dimethyltryp- tamine (DMT) and monoamine oxidase-inhibiting alkaloids (harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine) that render it orally active. Ayahuasca ingestion is a central feature in several Brazilian syncretic churches that have expanded their activities to urban Brazil, Europe and North America. Members of these groups typically ingest ayahuasca at least twice per month. Prior research has shown that acute ayahuasca increases blood flow in prefrontal and temporal brain regions and that it elicits intense modifications in thought processes, perception and emotion. However, regular ayahuasca use does not seem to induce the pattern of addiction-related problems that characterize drugs of abuse. To study the impact of repeated ayahuasca use on general psychological well-being, mental health and cognition, here we assessed personality, psychopathology, life attitudes and neuropsychological performance in regular ayahuasca users (n=127) and controls (n = 115) at baseline and 1 year later. Controls were actively participating in non-ayahuasca religions. Users showed higher Reward Dependence and Self-Transcendence and lower Harm Avoidance and Self-Directedness. They scored significantly lower on all psychopathology measures, showed better performance on the Stroop test, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and the Letter-Number Sequencing task from the WAIS-III, and better scores on the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale. Analysis of life attitudes showed higher scores on the Spiritual Orientation Inventory, the Purpose in Life Test and the Psychosocial Well-Being test. Despite the lower number of participants available at follow-up, overall differences with controls were maintained one year later. In conclusion, we found no evidence of psychological maladjustment, mental health deterioration or cognitive impairment in the ayahuasca-using group. (Buoso et al., 2012 - 'Personality, Psychopathology, Life Attitudes and Neuropsychological Performance among Ritual Users of Ayahuasca: A Longitudinal Study')

integration practices for daily life?

1. Meditation: Plant medicine reveals to us different facets of our own consciousness. Similarly, meditation opens up a space to explore our mind. Just like plant medicine, our own inner awareness can guide us to areas of our sense of self that hinder us or serve us. Meditation is a tool to navigate our psyche with non-judgement and the intention of self improvement and growth.

2. Therapy: You’re only human. Don’t be afraid to ask for support after you’ve had an experience with plant medicine. Meeting with a therapist can be constructive in continuing to “make sense” of your experience, or to just dive deeper into what was revealed to you.

3. Journaling or Writing: Keeping track of what continues to stick out to you, or what pieces of your experience remain pertinent to your everyday life is a beneficial tool to staying proactive with the information or insights you received.

4. Reading up on relevant material: Continue to engage with the experience. Read books or articles that encourage your growth and educate you about the process when you have engaged in plant medicine work.

communicating about my experience?

1.  Find a like minded community:  It is much easier to communicate about your experience with other people who have shared similar experiences.  They can help you learn integrate your experience, feel understood, and carry on the lessons that you have learned.

2.  Know your audience:  When speaking to someone religious, use religious language.  When speaking to a New Age spiritual person, use New Age language. When speaking to an atheist, use atheist language.  For example, you could describe the same experience using the word ‘God,’ or the word ‘divine intelligence,’ or something like ‘higher power.. as in like what the body is to our cells.’

3.  Be humble:  Remember when you were 16 years old and you thought you knew everything?  Later on you realized you were quite mistaken.  Realize that you are in the same position now.  Be humble when talking to people in all positions.

Should I do another ceremony?

1.  Gut Feeling:  The best guide to knowing whether another experience is right for you is your gut feeling.  Your gut feeling is another way of saying your considerations taking everything into account, not just those factors that you can explicitly identify.  Only you have the complete knowledge of all of the factors that will affect you.  Trust yourself and your feelings.

2.  Time:  The more time you take, the more opportunity you will have to integrate your previous experience, apply the lessons you learned to your life, and find out what new questions arise.

3.  Life Situation:  If you happen to be in the jungle in Peru with plenty of free time available your choice to participate in another Ayahuasca ceremony is likely going to be different than if you are in a busy period of life with lots of stresses.

Considerations for frequency?

A general guideline offered by the 'Guild of Guides' for those who are curious about entheogen usage is once or twice per year and no more than once per month. This is typically to give the mind sufficient time to integrate lessons from the experience into daily life. More time between experiences also means that there will be more life events to work with in a subsequent experience. That said, Ayahuasca is a unique entheogen with its own culture, and in traditional contexts usage often exceeds once per month. For example, some churches incorporate weekly ceremonies into their religious practices, and may cultures practice intense initiatory rites in which Ayahuasca is consumed many times over the course of a week to a month or more.

Some individuals may be happy with one or two uses of Ayahuasca, to open the door to a new sense of connection to nature and self, while others may continue use throughout their life. During earlier uses immense personal value can come from a newfound opening up of the self to a deep sense of connectedness. Continued use can be beneficial in deepening that connection, fortifying the mind, and continuing to provide greater self knowledge. There are also always new facets of reality and knowledge to explore.  That said, the path is not prescribed and predictable. Initial ceremonies may feel very dark before eventually arriving at a place of openness and expansion. Whether the ceremony experience is dark or light it can beneficial, and the benefits of a single ceremony may feel sufficient for one person while another may feel drawn to continued ceremonies. Let your instinctual feeling be your best guide.

time to discontinue use?

If someone is stuck in a place in which they feel they are not benefiting from their experiences it may be a good time to discontinue use for any period of time that feels right to them, in order to reflect on their experiences and clearly see that the plant itself is not responsible for the quality of experiences that arise. When this message is internalized the result will be taking a more willful, active, and skillful role in choosing healthy decisions and orientations to life. Personal alignment in values and actions, constant good intentionality towards others, spiritual practice (meditation, prayer, etc), acts of compassion, and non-judgmental disposition are all good indicators of having learned the lesson of taking personal responsibility for one's own quality of life. Along the road to finding these qualities in oneself, it is possible to feel that another ceremony would be beneficial or to continue along the clarified path one is walking.

Ayahuasca is not a magical cure-all. It lends itself to showing people a path for their personal growth, but the work of personal growth is up to the individual. Someone may come to the experience with an attitude that the plant is supposed to cure them of something they feel unhappy about. And they may continue to come again and again without realizing that they need to do the work themselves. In this respect Ayahuasca use is very different than the Western model of medicine, in which you take a pill and that pill is supposed to do all the work for you. Rather, it is more similar to a loving but strict teacher or parent (hence the common phrase 'Mother Ayahuasca') who will guide the student or child towards creating their own positivity.

learning about reality?

There are a number of aspects of reality that we all sort of know are real but don't really account for in day to day life because they do not have a strong emotional bearing on us. The ultimate significance of these aspects of reality often stands out much more starkly and significantly during an Ayahuasca ceremony:

1. We are beings of the universe, not in the universe. To quote Alan Watts: "We do not "come into" this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean "waves," the universe "peoples." Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated "egos" inside bags of skin."

2. The observable universe is approximately 3.77 × 10^81 times larger than the average human (that's 377,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 with 51 more zero's following, bigger than a human). In contrast a human is only 240,000 times bigger than an average cell. To the best of our knowledge, our consciousness arises from the swirling density of patterned interactions between the cells of our brain and body. There is very little reason to imagine that consciousness does not also arise from the swirling density of patterned interactions between other parts and wholes at different size scales: planets, galaxies, superclusters, etc. That seemingly endless series of zero's indicates a huge number of potentials scales above us for this to happen at. Of course, this would not be a human style form of consciousness, but something rather inconceivably different. So, if you do explore Ayahuasca and have the experience of interacting with an inconceivably different form of consciousness, remind yourself that it's only logical.

3. Other people have experience in the exact same moment as we do ourselves. It makes a lot of sense, therefore, to conceive of an existential space that accounts for their simultaneous existence.  This is both simple and radical. That space (in which we are one momentary instantiation) transcends the self, and the self-significance that we implicitly assume as we carry on through life.

4. When communicating with someone you are literally becoming interwoven parts of each other. If you are talking with a friend, for example, your friend's tongue movements are seamlessly connected to the vibration of air particles that cause your inner ear to vibrate, to the subsequent interpretation of language, and to the accordant firing of neurons connected to your thought process. In the space that gives rise to your conscious experience there is a interwoven mixing with your friend - like two whirlpools overlapping in their boundaries. Similarly, when Ayahuasca interacts with your system a form of communication occurs.  The interactive processes that make you 'you' are now operating in a new 'Ayahuasca-you' interaction, and you become a form of consciousness that you are likely very unfamiliar with. One that you probably assumed impossible to exist, based on very understandable human inclinations that fix our perspective to a extremely limited scale and scope.

There are two things to note:
1. Each of these forms of realization diminishes one's sense of self-importance. They can feel threatening because in the immediate sense our emotions are quite egocentrically designed, potentially making the dethronement of the self quite challenging. But, as anyone with a dollop of wisdom will know, selflessness is at the very core of ultimate and sustainable well-being. So, dealing with the pesky ego's protestations is worth it when the greater path is in sight.

2. Words are generally an insufficient medium for communicating experience's typically described along the lines of 'awakening' or deep insight. Trying to describe the forms of realization that come about through Ayahuasca can feel something like what it might be if you were a dog who took a magic plant which communicated knowledge of Newton's laws of physics to you, and then you tried to bark an understanding of the laws back to other dogs.

Its role for humanity?

Humanity is at a critical juncture in which technological power is progressing exponentially. If it is not met with widespread moral and internal development it is very feasible that the human race will not survive. Now is the most important time in the history of our species for people to look deeply within themselves to become the positive change they are seeking. This can be accomplished through many methods, but we may be hard-pressed to create sufficient impact on the moral development of our species with traditional methods, given the pace of technological progress.  The amazing spread of Ayahuasca use across the globe over the past few year may signal that the role of Ayahuasca is to unite humanity at this all-important fork in the road.