Engaging Psychedelic Communities
Community is something we do, but it is also a dynamic property of our relationships with one and other. More so than others, psychedelic communities are do-acracies where action is queen and people self-elect to the roles they play.
Think about it—as I explored in finding psychedelic community—people seek others who have done psychedelics. To grow psychedelic communities, you can’t be passive—you must engage!
But how? Is there one ‘correct’ path? What precautions should be observed?
Within psychedelic communities exists an agreement that psychedelics are intriguing—wonderful, even—but complete consensus about their significance, appropriate use, or future is lacking.
Yet some norms and best practices have emerged. Because psychedelics are still illegal in most countries, some of the features of psychedelic communities are necessarily reflective of this reality. Thus, it is best to remain sensible about where, how, and with whom you discuss or imbibe psychedelic substances because not everyone is enlightened when it comes to this topic.
Still, people can and do engage meaningfully with psychedelic communities to support, deepen, and contextualize their experiences with altered states of consciousness.
Listen to our podcast episode with Ashley Booth talking about How To Build A Psychedelic Community or Click here to read the transcript
GET EDUCATED ABOUT PSYCHEDELICS!
Communities are give and take. Do some independent learning—start anywhere! Psychedelics are inherently multidisciplinary, and communities function best when they allow different people to play to their strengths. For example, echoes of the psychedelic experience not only reverberate through culture in our history, philosophy, literature, film, and arts, but also in disciplines like psychology, pharmacology, neuroscience, botany, and chemistry.
The failure of educational institutions to provide quality instruction about psychoactive substances has produced far too many casualties. Most educational materials about psychedelics at virtually all levels of learning present information from a drug abuse paradigm, imparting little practical knowledge. Luckily, the broader psychedelic community has created resources that are quite useful for both the novice and the psychonaut.
“Psychedelics are inherently multidisciplinary, and communities function best when they allow different people to play to their strengths.”
The Entheogenic University’s fantastic, freely available class The Open Hyperspace Traveler: A course handbook for the safe and responsible management of psychoactives is one of the excellent resources produced by the psychedelic community. Designed as an online course complete with chapter-encompassing quizzes, the OHT handbook is an excellent, comprehensive treatment of a subject specifically addressed to individuals who would like to use psychedelic substances or to help others to do so safely. As a direct result of prohibition, people frequently ingest substances of unclear quantity, purity, or identity.
Covered in the OHT are topics like how to use a testing kit to detect adulterants in most psychedelic substances. While legal at the federal level, unfortunately, there are some states that classify them as ‘drug paraphernalia.’ Regardless, Third Wave recommends testing any substances you plan to ingest (use our link to get 5% off).
Editor’s note: At Third Wave, we’ve also provided extensive guides to each psychedelic, including safety protocols if you plan to take them.
Here is the list of guides available:
COMMUNING WITH NATURE: COSMIC CAMPING
Many people experience their first mushroom or LSD trip in the wilderness with friends, consciously or unconsciously following the sage advice of LSD inventor Dr. Albert Hoffman himself, who advised: “Always do it in Nature.”
Mother Nature is an amazing teacher who makes good use of expanded states of consciousness.
However, some of her lessons are notoriously harsh—do not neglect the basics: food, water, shelter, first aid, and fire safety. Recall the motto of both the Boy and Girl Scouts: “Be prepared.”
At the very least, one person in the group should be experienced with the substance to be consumed at the dosage to be consumed. Consider having a friend remain unaltered, and as always when heading into the wild, tell someone where you are going and when to expect you back in town.
BEING THERE: TRIP SITTING
The Manual for Psychedelic Support was specifically designed for use at festivals, but contains plenty of useful information for other more intimate contexts. Free to download and available in print, it is full of practical information about how to reduce the likelihood of negative outcomes for people experiencing temporarily difficult states of mind.
There is an immense difference between difficult experiences such as confusion, processing of past trauma, or physical discomfort, and negative experiences like encounters with untrained law enforcement, injury, and unnecessary visits to the mental hospital.
Consider offering to sit for a friend or ask a friend to sit for you. Having a friend nearby can help one explore a deeper, transpersonal level of the psychedelic experience. Setting an intention for your journey can prove fruitful. Perhaps write it down beforehand or share it with your friend.
Discuss boundaries with your counterpart: mutual trust is of paramount concern. While there are many contexts in which people enjoy taking psychedelics, sometimes less is more. A darkened room, a candle, an eyeshade, and some music without intelligible lyrics are a good place to start. Also, have a place to lay down: depersonalization while ambulatory is dangerous.
“Having a friend nearby can help one explore a deeper, transpersonal level of the psychedelic experience.”
Particularly for inexperienced people, having someone dedicated to minding your bodily safety while you go within can be deeply reassuring. As a sitter, you may be ignored completely for the duration of the journey, or you may be called upon for support. Interacting with someone who is under the influence of psychedelics is a delicate business.
Even if you are fully aware of the substance and dosage that a person has ingested, from the outside it can be very difficult to assess their mental and emotional status. A good rule of thumb is to speak only when spoken to and listen more than you talk. Try not to editorialize or assign meaning to another person’s experience. A calm, noninvasive presence is the goal.
If no one you know is capable or willing to sit for you, there are people skilled in holding space for others to “go deep.” These people could be traditional ayahuasca curanderos from a long lineage in Peru or a neo-shaman who is self-taught and compassionate.
Opinions vary about what is appropriate but suffice to say that there are those willing to host outsiders, more frequently outside of the United States. However, many individuals do quietly conduct underground sessions. For an idea of what one should expect from an ethical psychedelic facilitator, see the Council on Spiritual Practices page on this topic.
TAKE SAFETY, SECURITY, AND CONFIDENTIALITY SERIOUSLY
If you have sat for someone, or a friend has decided to disclose their experiences or curiosity about psychedelics to you, do not share this information with others without their consent. Just don’t.
Until laws are amended to recognize the fact that the War on Drugs is a bloody failure, doing so exposes your friends and acquaintances to potential job-loss, change in relationship status, or incarceration.
Finally, it makes sense for everyone in today’s world of ubiquitous state and private surveillance to consider using some form of end-to-end encryption on your phone—we recommend Signal.
What’s next? With this information at your disposal, you are ready to get busy making the world a better place! We need you to help build a post-prohibition world.