Personal Development

Out of Your Mind, Into Your Heart: The Role of Psychedelic Integration

Liz Zhou · November 16th, 2020

A psychedelic experience can shake up our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. It can be intensely beautiful, unexpectedly challenging, or a combination of the two. In the aftermath of a psychedelic journey, we may experience a newfound sense of clarity and direction, or end up with more questions than answers.

No two experiences are the same—but whatever your foray into plant medicines may look like, there is no denying the importance of psychedelic integration. Through this process, we incorporate the insights and teachings of the journey into our daily lives. Integration follows a harm reduction model and offers a non-judgmental and supportive space for people to unpack the meaning of their psychedelic experience.

Personal and profound

Because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the integration process, each person’s life situation will dictate how they choose to bring the psychedelic experience into conversation with everyday reality.

For some, the medicine may impart straightforward messages: that it’s time to let go of X, or stop doing Y, or consider trying Z. This means you may feel called to make concrete life shifts to support your self-growth—such as adopting a healthier diet, transitioning out of toxic relationships, or cutting down on social media consumption.

There are other cases, however, in which the path forward is not as clear-cut. Many people struggle to make sense of the emotions, sensations, and visions of the psychedelic journey in a way that applies to their day-to-day lives. Perhaps you glimpsed strange shapes and mystical beings, and have no idea what to make of these images.

Or maybe you felt profound peace and joy, but don’t know how to re-access these states now that the effects of the medicine have faded. Alternatively, you may have encountered immensely challenging memories and emotions, and are feeling lost and confused in the aftermath of the experience.

When this happens, it can be useful to simply allow the memory of the experience to exist within you, without the pressure to understand it on a cognitive level. Let intuition rather than intellect lead the way.

Mystical visions may serve as an invitation to embrace the awe and mystery of existence. Feelings of bliss that arise while journeying with psychedelics become potent reminders of what is possible when we let go of limiting beliefs and toxic thought patterns. Challenging emotions like fear, anger, and sadness are signs from our subconscious awareness of the unmet needs and unresolved issues that are now asking for our conscious attention.

Altered states, altered traits

As you begin integrating a psychedelic experience, you may want to consider tapping into modalities that take you out of your mind and into your heart. Mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga induce altered states of consciousness similar to those of the psychedelic experience, releasing the brain from rigid neural pathways (e.g., old, self-defeating stories) and invoking powerful new insights. Taking a seat on the meditation cushion, if only for a few minutes every day, is a way to continue to sit with the teachings of the medicine. Through mindfulness practices, we transform altered states of consciousness into healthy and long-lasting traits.

The psychedelic journey takes place in a realm beyond words, communicating instead through visuals, sensations, and emotions. Due to the non-verbal nature of the experience, it may make sense to integrate it through non-verbal means as well, such as dancing, drawing, music-making, breathwork, and walks in nature. By letting go of the need to articulate our experience in words, we make space for our intuitive wisdom and bodily intelligence to awaken and teach us something about ourselves.

Ultimately, psychedelics do not do the work for us. They show us the work that needs to be done and connect us to the truth of who we are. By applying the teachings from the psychedelic space to our daily lives, we take the future of our healing into our own hands. We enter into a continuous, non-linear, and profoundly humbling process of integration, in which we learn to balance a sense of surrender with a sense of discipline.

While it is possible to do this on our own, sometimes the moving pieces of life after a paradigm-shifting psychedelic experience can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, support is at hand. As psychedelics increasingly enter the mainstream, a growing number of trained integration specialists are emerging to help support post-journey processing.

If you want to find out more about the current infrastructure of psychedelics, then check out our podcast interview with Yaron Conforti where we talk about Building the Infrastructure for Our Psychedelic Future

If the idea of working with an integration professional resonates with you, a good place to start is with Mindleap. This mobile app features profiles of 40+ trained specialists from recognized institutions such as CIIS, Fluence, MAPS, and Psychedelic Support. And right now, Mindleap is offering Third Wave readers $25 off your first session—just use the code ‘THIRDWAVE’.

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