What follows is a guest blog post from the psychedelic integration volunteer mentioned in the previous blog post.
As James said in his post, ingestion of psychedelics under supervision in a safe setting greatly increases the likelihood that the psychedelic experience is one of therapeutic benefit.
I completely agree, however the safe setting that I chose could be regarded by many as highly unsafe. The middle of the Peruvian jungle, in an off grid camp, next to a tributary of the Amazon river, a day's canoe ride from any medical help. It's tough to find somewhere to do it in the UK. I'm an adventurer so it wasn't too much of an issue for me. I was highly motivated by the desire to rid myself of the heavy darkness I was carrying inside me, I didn't want it but I couldn't seem to free myself from it. I'd made progress through counseling, meditation, yoga, NVC (non violent communication), spiritual teachers on youtube and various other weird and wonderful retreats I'd attended. But something was still there and I couldn't get to it. They name this plant medicine "The Mother" in the Amazon, and they say it calls you. When I learned about Ayahuasca, it called me.
In the jungle I worked with Peruvian shamans. They hold the ceremonial space, look after the safety of the experience and facilitate healing in a very ancient, skillful and magical way. Well I found it magical, it's bread and butter sense to them, they've been doing it for generations. They drew the darkness out of me, it was a bit like having my hard drive wiped.
On return to Edinburgh, what had made perfect sense in the Peruvian jungle with shamans, was much trickier to handle in the day to day operations of living in the western world. I felt much better, but also a bit lost and alone. How was I going to integrate this into my life, load all the right stuff onto my shiny new hard drive and not go backwards in confusion? Who could I talk to? Er...not the NHS that's for sure, I was scared I might get sectioned or at least black marked. I've worked for the NHS in mental health, I know how things operate.
Fortunately for me, I found the Scottish community of psychonauts and what I needed to help me learn from, and integrate my experience. I understand now that we do have shamans in the UK, and it seems we had many more of them in the distant past. Maybe they are not always called "shamans" today, but I can spot them now, and it doesn't take long for us to recognise each other.
For me, psychedelics have been a wonderful tool for healing and I realised very quickly that the wisdom and insights gained under their influence need to be integrated. It is absolutely essential and I have put a lot of effort into this. My trip to the Amazon took me 18 months to integrate. Unfortunately I have also seen people who are lost, distressed in fact, as to how to integrate their experiences and are left floundering. Integration is 80% of the work. Psychedelics can crack the door open and let us peek inside. Then we have to push the door open ourselves and learn to live on the other side of it. When I saw James's post on the Psychedelic Society of Edinburgh I felt moved to volunteer. How wonderful someone is offering this work, how groundbreaking.
So what happened in my three sessions with James?
In my first session and my first experience of Zero Balancing, I experienced that James was purposefully calm, balanced and neutral. He was like a calm still pond - I could look into the water and see myself reflected back. I could see that he was being a mirror and holding it up for me to see myself and what was going on in me. That's a useful learning tool for integration; realising what's happening inside me, and that was one of the first things I got out of it. During the session if there were any ripples I was seeing and feeling, then I could be sure that they were my own, caused by me. He wasn't adding anything into the mix. It's not often that I am with another, or get the focus of another human being, without their ripples meeting my ripples and causing a whole lot of action in the water. This rippled water is then too unclear to see through well, and to know what is mine and what's theirs. Zero Balancing allowed me to see some of my ripples with support, and then calm them so that the water cleared.
I have recently become interested in Scotland's own teacher plant medicines. They grow wild right on our doorstep at this time of the year. I understand how to hold my own ceremonial space now and so I came to the second session with a recent new experience to integrate. I had experienced quite a profound connection with the native teacher plants a few days before the session and I'd had the somewhat baffling experience that my ancestors worked with them and they had knowledge to pass to me. Knowledge that had been lost when my ancestors and others like them were wiped out by persecution. Wow! This was a lot for me to take in, even by my standards it was weird and wonderful. The session with James helped me to take this experience a step further, firstly he was just a calm, non judgemental witness to the information, and secondly with bodywork. I had a little more understanding by now that Zero Balancing allows energy to flow more freely in a person's body so that they can come home to their true spark and essence. I left feeling lighter and more aligned in my body with less aches and stiffness.
Week three was unexpectedly emotional. I arrived feeling like a lot of what I had experienced during my psychedelic experience the previous week was just crazy talk and impossible to integrate into my life in Edinburgh. The persecution of psychedelic knowledge continues to this day and how could I get involved in working with what is (unbelievably to me) a class A drug. James was skilled in helping me to identify what I DO want in more general terms, thereby giving us a focus for the session. During the body work he hit a few points in my right shoulder that were tender and sore, but the kind of pain that feels sooooo good. When he explained to me what they represented, a lot of emotion welled up in me and I could see the root of some self limiting beliefs that are blocking me. It was a powerful experience and I spent the rest of that day and evening contemplating and integrating this new insight. It involved a lot of sobbing. I'm good with that though, it's life flowing through me, it's me evolving. I've never had good experiences in intimate relationships before, but now (I think, as a result of all the healing I've done) I have a wonderful boyfriend and he made me a nest on his sofa and looked after me while I sobbed. I'm a work in progress, all of us are and always will be. Modern day shamans can help us evolve, it's what we are here for, and to my mind they are essential members of our community.