How do you do it? The Guide
There is no formula for integration because it is truly unique to the individual, their particular psychedelic experience, and their intentions to what feels right.
You will often hear me say, “Make it your own.”
Recreational or Therapeutic. Which I both advocate for and believe in both, strongly… Seriously.
Each person has different reasons for engaging in intentional psychedelic work. For some, the focus is healing trauma or recovering from addiction. For others its about spiritual awakening and expansion. And for many it’s about growing, learning and experiencing the world differently. Please don’t forget about an opportunity to experience an amazing musical experience with a boost. Whatever your intention is for engaging with psychedelics in the first place, it will have a big impact on what your integration process looks like.
Generally, I find that integration is a gradually unfolding journey that for many people can take months to complete.
For some people doing deep and ongoing psychedelic work, their entire life becomes all about integration for a couple of years. For others, especially if they have experienced deep mystical states, it can be essentially a life-long journey. I don’t know about you, but I am personally still integrating how I got here. It really depends on the person and the nature of their experience.
Regardless of what your particular integration journey looks like, there are some practices I recommend that can help you make the most of your psychedelic experience. And bring it into the here and now.
· Give yourself time and space. If possible, do not return to your routine life right away. It can be helpful to have some time off between your psychedelic experience and your normal routine. If you feel safe, a day of unscheduled time by yourself can be very helpful. Some time alone is very helpful here. Once you start talking about your experience with others, you are altering your relationship to it in some way. This is fine and normal but you will get more out of your experience if you have alone time to truly reflect on it and allow further insights to bubble up before switching to explanatory mode with friends and family.
· Approach integration intentionally. If you engage with the process as an active participant, you are much more likely to realize the transformational potential of the psychedelics. This means really reflecting on what happened, what it means for your life, what messages and guidance were received and exploring how to put them into practice in your life.
· Spend some time in nature. Some quiet time in a natural setting, connecting to the world around you, can be very helpful. I often go on a walk in the woods, this provides me a chance to watch things both settle and start to come together. It can be helpful for grounding and stabilizing your energy. Natural settings are also good at helping put things in perspective. I adore and love what the Japanese call forest bathing.
· Allow yourself to learn how you’ve changed. Many people find they are drawn to different things or organically have different preferences. Your diet may change, what kind of substances you engage with can change, the kinds of people you are drawn to may change. Give yourself time to find out. Your body often knows before your conscious mind does so before engaging in your regular habitual patterns, check-in with your body and see if this still feels right for you. In some cases, you may find that it doesn’t.
· Pay attention to your intuition. After a profound psychedelic experience you may find that you are more aware of your intuition. You got out of your ordinary linear mindset for a while, which helps you to tune-in to intuitive and unconscious communication. There may be a lot of wisdom and additional insights from your intuition so pay attention. Don’t just ignore it. You may find that as you are going about your day-to-day life, certain experiences are highlighted somehow. They stick out as if something beyond conscious awareness is drawing your attention to it. Pay attention and explore these.
· Pay attention to and work actively with your dreams. Dreams are a great channel for tapping into the unlimited creativity and intuition of the unconscious mind and beyond. They are psychedelic in their own right! You may find that there is a lot of processing of the psychedelic experience happening in your dreams. You can work with your dreams intentionally as well. Before you go to bed put some intentions into your dreams regarding your integration. If there is a lack of clarity regarding something that happened during your ceremony or psychedelic experience, ask for guidance. If you need helping grounding and balancing, ask for help with that. In the morning as soon as you wake up, try to recall your dreams and spend a little bit of time reflecting on them. Writing them down in a journal is a really helpful way to get the most out of working with your dreams. I run a monthly dream group where we explore both dreams and psychedelic experiences. Reach out to me and I will provide more information.
Keep a journal. I love my book for this. The Psychedelic Integration Handbook is made to be a living integration organism. An integration journal can really help you to get a handle on the process and work through things as they come up. This doesn’t have to be a linear recounting of events. You can creatively express what is happening, how you are feeling, how your world is shifting. This is helpful in terms of integrating these shifts at a conscious mental level. Some people also find that artistic and musical creative expression is really helpful. This allows the non-linear aspects of your mind to process and express what’s happening as well.
Talk to people you can trust. Verbally processing what happened with a trusted confidant can also be very helpful. But make sure it is someone that is open to hearing about it and will not respond with judgment or close-mindedness. Obviously it’s more helpful to share your experience with other people who have gone through it. Let’s be honest telling someone you just got sent to another planet takes some discernment.
After you get your start build in new practices. Because of the disruption of your ordinary state of consciousness, psychedelic and ceremonial experiences offer an incredible opportunity to make lasting practical and behavioral changes. There is a window of opportunity, before your brain gets back into automatic living mode, during which you can more easily institute new practices. These can be health practices, such as eating a healthier diet or starting a regular exercise practice, or be spiritual in nature, such as creating a routine for meditation, yoga, prayer, intention setting, etc.
Throw out old practices. Similarly it is much easier to get rid of old unhealthy activities and practices that no longer serve you directly after a psychedelic experience. Everything is more flexible right after, so make changes before things start solidifying back into a regular routine.
Get help if you need it. Integration can sometimes be stormy to say the least. It may feel like your life has been turned upside down. If you are having trouble making sense of the new you and your new world or find yourself unable to ground, reach out and get some help with what you are going through. If your ceremony or psychedelic experiences was facilitated, reach out to the facilitator for guidance. Or get help from a psychotherapist, a healer, or a spiritual teacher, ideally ones that are familiar with higher states of consciousness. I provide integration circles that are meetings where people share their experiences with psychedelics. You don’t have to work through it alone.
Most importantly be gentle with yourself and fucking love yourself. No explanation needed.
What I don't endorse.
Taking every vision you have had in your journey or in a psychedelic experience literally. It is best to treat them more like dreams in that they are providing symbols and communication that carry meaning but not necessarily the literal meaning that we think. It is best to explore these over time without attaching to your initial reaction. Often what that visionary experience means to you evolves over time. Don’t get attached to your initial reactions reached in the height of your journey or experience.
Returning home and making dramatic life changes immediately following a ceremony. Give yourself time to put the psychedelic experience in its proper place in your life. Maybe big dramatic changes are needed, but give yourself time to stabilize emotionally and energetically first. And even then, give it some time. Your understanding of what needs to happen may change over time. Give it the space to do that.
Telling everybody you meet that they must take mushrooms or blast off with DMT. This is a common desire for people who had unbelievable life altering experiences. But keep in mind these practices aren’t for everybody. Some people have really difficult times with psychedelics, even dark startling experiences. For others, such as those with serious psychiatric conditions, it can be dangerous. Recommending that everybody engage with psychedelics is reckless. Practice discernment in terms of who you talk about it with and how you talk about it.
How do you start your integration process? Where do you feel most comfortable in that process? How do you recognize when it’s time to shift your integration process?
With the resurgence of psychedelics comes the advent of psychedelic integration. I know it’s not a new concept. But with the invitation of psychedelic work comes an even more spirited need to integrate.
If we want to keep the train on the tracks of this healing psychedelic journey we better respect the HOW and the integrity it takes to integrate with a respectful and grounding within the here an now!
Dr. Ryan Westrum is a clinical psychologist and internationally recognized psychedelic integration specialist. You can sign up for a complementary consultation by visiting his website at healingsoulsllc.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org