The Life/Integration Matrix: the challenges of psychedelic peak experience digestion in a modern existence

Andy C

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately noting how the pace of life, the pace of MY life, makes me feel as though sometimes it speeds by like Wiley Coyote with barely a moment to stop and take in the face melting splendour of it all, before I’m off the cliff again with another peak experience/psychedelic journey or challenging life event. Such is the nature of this existence. As we get older and approach closer the bony fingers of the reaper, our perception seems to be that time is speeding up.

It’s a delicious discussion in its own, with Papa Terrence suggesting in a YouTube lecture I cannot recommend enough (not going to apologise for the immediate referencing of McKenna, if it’s cliché then cover me in honey and throw me to the acid badgers, he’s the shit) that we are headed TOWARDS, not away from, a kind of imminent, inverse Big Bang he refers to as the Eschaton.

Is time speeding up because we are approaching some ineffable endpoint that will wipe our cosmological slate clean and pop out a new scaffold with which the universe can begin experiencing itself anew all over? Or like a gentleman I was informed of recently with a ‘Stay Busy’ tattoo proudly carved into his chest (although I wish it were on the knuckles of each of his hands – you gotta have street cred in the burn yourself out business right?) this is the new normal.

Is the feeling that the years dissolve with increasing swiftness a by-product of our increasingly time poor existence where slaying yourself being social, working, researching, partying, creating, YouTube wormholing and travelling this pale blue dot takes priority over ‘steeping in your rest like tea in hot water’ as a wicked yoga teacher of mine once referred to it.

All of the above is before you even chuck exploring, expanding, bending, blending and upending your consciousness with the myriad psychedelics and plant medicines proliferating in the Western Zeitgeist again in the modern psychedelic revolution. That’s what we’re here for on the APS website right? Because we all feel the same burning desire, albeit from many different pulpits, platforms, backgrounds and vistas to exist with total cognitive liberty and egalitarian access to healing which to some indigenous cultures has been in use for tens of thousands, potentially even over 100 thousand years.

The systemic global patchwork and capitalist paradigm we have been used to for the last hundred years is crumbling like a cookie whilst simultaneously ripping at the seams giving us a look at its insides. For a lot of us it’s a pretty disconcerting ride to find out the stuffing and gizzards are not really what we’ve been told they were all this time. This is where the integration space becomes crucial; it is the nexus, the meeting point where regardless of the speed of life, regardless of the challenges we face and regardless of existential tumult, we can draw the jewel out of the journey and return home triumphant, feeling ever so slightly better equipped to rise another day and stay busy. Hahaha!

Now I’m not suggesting I hold all the keys. I’m certainly no master in this field and I believe humility is something sorely missing from most folk these days. I’ve acquired but a few keys on my keyring from my time in the cosmic game and if even just one of you find a delicious nugget to take into your life or psychedelic practice then I’m a happy vegemite.

1. Intention setting.
In my own practice this is one of the most underrated tools for both life and psychedelic/medicinal explorations. When you bring intention setting into your everyday existence and not just a psychedelic, ceremonial or ritual context it crystallizes your focus both on a conscious and subconscious level and can help to stem the runaway sensation of time poverty. It allows for an invisible barometer with which to check back in with your speedy existence and note whether you are using this incredible vessel we are given as wisely as possible. When you utilise it in a psychedelic context the journey begins ahead of time, almost like the backwards helical flow of future time reaches out a tendril and the medicine lands in this moment, before anything enters your body exogenously.

I have had an extremely rickety run with taking psychedelics recreationally with an absence of intention setting and have experienced many a bad trip where the gargoyles of my subconscious hound me relentlessly. How many times do you have to fall down an open manhole before you learn your lesson and course correct? Many, many times, let me tell you. Setting an affirmative intention that is grounded and tangible but also potent in its reaches gives you a checklist that you can come back to if things do turn pear shaped, banana shaped or whatever kind of uneven fruit shape your psychedelic dabbles take.

At the very least, crafting a solid intention before you embark on these most sacred, special and seriously strange journeys will help you integrate once the ride is over, because you chose to do this, chose to heal yourself, chose to affect change and get by just a nibble better than you did before.

2. Nature.
Spending time in nature WHILE tripping is probably one of the most important pieces of the SET and SETTING part of the equation that comes even before integration. Utilising the splendour of the natural world AFTER you’ve had a reality shattering psychedelic journey, or even just a little nudge of a microdose is one of the most effective ways of allowing the downloads, gems, shifts, changes and most importantly difficulties to slot in with ease.

The psychic surgery of the psychedelic journey can be traumatic, especially at higher doses and the integration space is where you can allow these difficult phases of adjustment to flow through you like the winds of the forest you’re sitting in cross legged just watching, listening, feeling and tuning in to the pulse and rhythm of this wonderful planet. There is a ludicrous amount of beauty that is easily accessible even in the major cities. Merri Creek here in Melbourne, Bronte Beach in Sydney, I could go on and on. (If you’re from Victoria and you’re looking for some advice on road trips to places, drop me a line.)

3. Sharing circles.
I’ve not attended the sharing circles run by APS but I am reliably informed they are immaculately facilitated and rather incredible indeed. In my recent and very fortunate experiences of sitting regularly in plant medicine ceremony, one of my absolute favourite moments is the circle the following day. Everyone shares whatever they wish for no matter how little or as powerfully they wish.

To be seen expressing your journey, the visions, your struggles and inner gooey giblets, concretises your experiences from the day or the previous evening. It makes real and tangible the hitherto ineffable experiences. It allows for a collaborative energetic sharing as jaws lay agape, guffaws rend holes in ear drums and tears rain down. There are very few things in life as special as the profundity and effusiveness of expression that takes place in these circles – something that just sharing trip stories with your mates well after the fact cannot accomplish.

Everybody can learn something from everybody else regardless of what you perceive your differences to be. That person sitting opposite you may have the small skerrick of advice regarding your rough return to reality that may cause the entire trillion piece puzzle you’re trying to put together come together in a mere instant.

4. Bodywork/Breathwork.
As anyone who knows me can attest to, and maybe you can too from reading this article, words are my thing. Language is the source code of the universe but at some point trying to express the great unmanifest and the experiences of the psychedelic realm just doesn’t cut it. You must get into your body and your breath and trust in the innate well of intelligence that this most profound technology bestows upon us.

Anything that gets you out of your mind and into your body and breath will do the trick, whether that’s yoga, swimming, meditating or breathwork (the latter two of which could be their own section to be sure). Or it could be going to a gig and looking like you’ve got rabies and have lost control of the movement of your body. Even just throw on some tunes in your lounge room and dance around in your underwear. Ridiculous you say? How about those 2 tabs of LSD you just somehow survived through?

5. Journalling.
Very simple. I use my computer these days because my poor first world hands have forgotten how to handwrite. Whatever is spinning around in that majestic noggin of yours needs to come out onto the page. Stream of consciousness style is usually better even if the flow is a bit ragged. When you clear your head of the thoughts and downloads that proliferate during the integrative post medicinal phase you allow the flourishing and ease of the recovery to flow more trippingly.

6.Transpersonal counselling/therapy.
Many people are averse to this one but my time as a paramedic taught me pretty bloody quickly that no one is superhuman and sometimes you need to rant with tear filled eyes to a stranger about the things you’ve seen to help process them. I’ve met people who have had experiences equally if not more harrowing than the traumatic paramedical days. Seek help. Your friends and family (unless they’re your psychonautical squad, and even then) are not equipped to help you make sense of your psychedelic journeying and the way it can totally upend your existence after the fact.

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This list is by no means exhaustive, mainly because I have gone way closer to the word limit for posting than I could have imagined. These are just my opinions from my explorations to this point and I don’t believe in absolutes in a relativistic universe where nothing can be taken as certain. I acknowledge my psychedelic privilege and the freedom and ease with which I am able to access these medicines and experiences and release freely into them with little to no fear of repercussion or my safety. I am working towards a space where that privilege dissolves. Thanks for reading!

Just a Regular Mum… that Treated Her C-PTSD with Psychedelics…

By Antanika Holton
This article is republished here with full permissions.

I sit, tightly wound for a moment, I’ve waited for this day for about a year.
I’m having my mental health assessed for the trauma I endured as a child. So I can be signed off as being mentally healthy for the first time in my life.

I hear my name called and I cross the room to greet the Psychiatrist. I like to think I’m a little open minded but she was exactly what you’d expect; Mid 50’s, with smart clothes and sensible shoes. She leads me down a long hall, the doors off to the sides have other therapists practicing from them. All of them in the Psychology field.

The woman across from me smiles warmly as I take a seat, the room is older than I was expecting, with 8ft decorated ceilings with all the trimmings.
It was also…pretty….ugly.
Mrs. Psych (not her real name) is a Psychiatrist who practices Psychotherapy in a fancier part of town that I rarely visit.

“I’m Mrs. Psych-” she shakes her head to the side, moving her fringe out her eyes, her once blonde bob, is heavily scattered with grey.
Her eyes are kind and quite small as she squints over at me.
I’m a little nervous and my arm pits are soggy but I find myself behaving bright, bubbly and conversational with her. Her warm manner makes me feel as though I’ve met her before, perfect.
My thoughts wonder and I imagine sitting in an actual therapy session with her.

She bursts into my day dream with “So, you’re here for an mental health assessment…-”
She pauses and looks up “…and- he was not convicted due to a lack of evidence…is that correct?”
“Yes”
 I smile.
My mind races through my memories and I realise how much everything scatters under pressure. I realise that I can’t recall a thing for a moment; 6 years of sexual abuse at the hands of a step-father, need I say more.
Ya know, the norm.
She crosses her leg across her other, corrects her posture and jots a note on her notepad. I reach for my water bottle beside me and take a sip.

“I am sorry you had to endure that…” she offers, “…So, tell me what happened, from the beginning, I understand this might be difficult for you so take as long as you need, we can take breaks if you need to.”
She searches my face sympathetically for any strike of pain she might find in my eyes.

I don’t flinch.

I run her by the first main instances but I strain to recall the smaller details, making me worry that I come off as insincere, I apologise, “it’s been a while since I’ve had to recall them”.
So, she asks me specifics, “how old were you, how old were you when it ended and why”, I answered as best as I could.
I have told my story so many times and it was so fresh once but the less I live in it, the less and less I have it sitting in the front of my thoughts.
These days, it feels as though who I am now, and who I was then, are worlds apart.  I barely recognise myself  although I feel that’s a good thing.
For anyone who like me has suffered from the grips of C-PTSD, you’d understand just how great it is to be able to see a future past a few days.
I look forward to so much that I rarely look back anymore.

“How do you feel it affected your life as a child, at school, in friendships, relationships, etc?”, she asks carefully.
I find her overly apologetic for a psychiatrist.
I tell her; how normal anxiety was for me, of how my childhood involved family violence, financial struggles, addiction and sexual abuse, over all it was unstable. I told her how I always felt out of place within my family and within any social groups, I felt isolated and alone. We moved a lot which meant I struggled to make and keep friendships, resulting in both my brother and I being at the ass end of bulling at times. I was a painfully shy and introverted child, whom also happened to be hiding an awful secret, it was a shitty mix.
In short, it was a bit shit.

“How do you feel it affected you in high school and the years following?”

I spoke of my promiscuous attention seeking behaviours, my inability to make friends, my excessive drinking, my risky behaviours, teen pregnancy. I tell her of my struggles with anxiety and depression, which at times made It difficult to parent my young son, or work.
It hindered my ability to judge what a good relationship should be.

I told her “My idea of what I was, had been over the years painfully skewed.”

“Okay, So, how do you feel it influences your life now?”

I light up, I smile and I lean forward in my chair and I tell her as my heartbeats fast in my chest because I know I am about to disclose something to her that maybe I shouldn’t.

I take a breath and continue, “The last 10 months have been some of the best months of my life, I rarely experience anxiety, unless its PMS related, my depression is gone, my C-PTSD is gone and my belief in myself has improved tenfold.”

She smiles brightly, “Can I ask, this is the second time you’ve mentioned the improvement over the last 10 or so months, why now, why so dramatically? What changed?”.
Her brow furrows with curiosity.

My heart skips a beat as the words fall from my mouth before I can catch them, “I took LSD and magic mushrooms to treat myself… I’d tried everything else…”
I watch her face, waiting for a glimpse of disapproval.
But I see none.

The drugs Lysergic acid diethylamide(LSD) and Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms) are both a schedule 1 narcotic meaning they are highly illegal despite the benefits they’ve been seen to have on treatment resistant mental health conditions such as mine.
To have those drugs was a big risk some might say.
But when you’re desperate, and the other choice is death, it’s a risk that I found was absolutely worth taking.

I squirm in my seat slightly, ‘might I regret this later? Despite the research and personal outcome?’
Imagine that, having a new mental health assessment because you were abused as a kid, but end up in jail for treating said abuse with highly illegal yet beneficial substances whilst, your abuser walks free, forever.
It felt unlikely to me that i’d end up in trouble, so I let it go. And anyway, she asked and, so, I gave my honest answer. I am not a dishonest person and I pride myself on that.

Oh-”  she exclaims “-I’ve been reading some of the research recently, it is quite interesting and looks promising, I’ look forward to seeing the studies”.

I beam at her and my shoulders relax, excited to be discussing this with a mental health professional in a position I respect, “The benefits are quite incredible…Especially when integrated with therapy.”

I am very interested to see what else it can do” she says.

“I feel kind of like I am wasting my time here-” I tell her boldly, “-I believe that I am pretty good now, that I won’t go back to how I was, and that the drugs helped me find a new path, both with healing, within my body, and within my mind…” 

I shrug, some what surprised at my clear articulation under her slight pressure. She smiles and continues chatting with me as she tells me she has to make notes on my appearance, checking my clothing over as part of her physical assessment.

“You really should be proud of that-” She pauses,
“- it takes many people many years to get to the stage you’re at, but I can understand why you might feel that way now, but you did everything right, you got the help, and I am glad to hear about it.”

I don’t believe that without my experiences with psychedelics in my early 30s that my C-PSTD, and depression or anxiety would have subsided as soon as they did.

These experiences allowed me to ask questions only I knew the answers to but hadn’t found yet.

I also don’t believe that I would have even considered I was intelligent enough if it were not for one experience where I felt as though the walls that enslaved my intelligence were finally broken down. I felt them fall as I made new revelations about myself and the world around me and where my own trauma had been holding me back. I made connections in those few experiences that I can’t imagine I would ever have been able to have made in my regular state of mind.
It is these experiences that allowed me to see myself exactly as I was.
I could finally see through certain areas that were once so foggy and dense that I deemed myself as ‘naive or slow, dumb, and my no means intelligent.’

But it was merely trauma and my own ‘ego’ getting in the way.
The integration of psychedelics in my personal life has had significant benefits.
Not only on my personal life but also on the way I function within society.
I am friendlier, helpful, cleaner, I feel vastly more amounts of empathy for strangers. I have found myself on pathways that lead me to functioning better as a person, to always wanting to be better.
These drugs allowed me to see my potential for a moment, and then allowed me to make the changes I needed to make that transition easier, it allowed me to be more conscious of my behaviours leading to better choices for long term.

Mrs.Psych sits back in her chair and writes a few more notes, briefly pausing to apologise for the silence and when she’s done our session draws to a close.

She thanks me for my honesty, and commends my progress, she places her pen and paper down beside her chair.

She smiles warmly, “And what’s next for you she asks?”.

“All the things”.

And then we laugh.

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Disclaimer:  
I am not saying that everyone should use this method nor that I continue to do so. This is merely my own experience.
Always take precautions; Educate yourself, read the research thoroughly and ensure you are safe.
I do not encourage or recommend anyone take part in “illegal activities” if they don’t want to.
Before taking any approach to healing that is alternative to the social norms, be sure to look into the legalities of such things depending on where you live. Also, it is incredibly important to be aware that not all substances will help everyone, and some substances can have effects that are not desired.
Be sure to do all your research before partaking in anything different that alters your usual waking state. 

And of course, like all things, if you or someone you know is having issues with drugs of any kind, reach out and get support.