The Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave
A Culture of Belonging: Psychedelics, Community, & Sacred Activism
Hanifa Nayo Washington
Hanifa Nayo Washington thrives at the intersection of mindfulness, belonging, and healing justice to co-create organizations, gatherings, and experiences rooted in the values of beloved community so all people can heal from the emotional, physical and spiritual impacts of systems of oppression, trauma, and disconnection.
Hanifa Nayo is the Co-founder and Organizing Principal of One Village Healing, an online BIPOC centered healing, resilience, and psychedelic wellness space. She is also the Co-founder and Chief of Strategy at Fireside Project the nonprofit that runs the Psychedelic Peer Support Line, that is helping people minimize the risks of their psychedelic experiences while democratizing access to free high-quality emotional support during and after any psychedelic experience. The line has supported over 5,000 callers since launching in 2021.
- Hanifa’s life of discovery and service that led her to co-found Fireside Project.
- Her insights about belonging, and how psychedelics influenced them.
- Defining—and challenging—the term ‘Psychedelic Space’ and how to “make equity real” in the context of psychedelics.
- Spiritual Resilience and Sacred Activism.
- Hanifa’s upcoming plant medicine retreat for black women.
Seeking psychedelic peer support?
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0:00:00.0 Paul Austin: Hey listeners, on today’s podcast we have Hanifa Nayo Washington, the co-founder and Chief of Strategy at Fireside Project.
0:00:09.9 Hanifa Nayo Washington: Providing culturally attuned care is one thing, but then how do we change the face of the psychedelic movement, or the psychedelic space? How do we bring in these different communities to actually be pillars in that space? And so there needs to be access, access to tools, access to funding, access to education, access to the networks, right?
0:00:38.2 PA: Welcome to the Third Wave Podcast. I’m your host, Paul Austin, here to bring you cutting edge interviews with leading scientists, entrepreneurs and medical professionals who are exploring how we can integrate psychedelics in an intentional and responsible way for both healing and transformation. It is my honor and privilege to bring you these episodes, as you get deeper and deeper into why these medicines are so critical to the future of humanity. So let’s go and let’s see what we can explore and learn together in this incredibly important time.
0:01:15.6 PA: Hey listeners, I am so excited to have Hanifa Nayo Washington on the podcast today, we go deep into the topics of social equity, of peer support, of what it’s like to be a black woman in the psychedelic space. What even is the psychedelic space in general? And one thing that stuck with me from this conversation was Hanifa’s quote around how choice is the bedrock of equity, and so we’ll really unfold that piece in today’s conversation. Hanifa Nayo Washington is a social entrepreneur, a sacred activist, digital designer and healing justice practitioner with 20 years of values based non-profit leadership. She’s the co-founder and Chief of Strategy at Fireside Project, a non-profit that is creating systemic change in the field of psychedelics in three key domains; safety, diversity and equitable access.
0:02:09.7 PA: An emerging thought leader in the field of psychedelic activism, Hanifa also serves as an advisor for Reconsider and East Forest’s latest project, Journey Space. I first met Hanifa through our virtual summit that we hosted a few months ago at Third Wave, she was a speaker for that virtual summit, and then immediately I had to get her on the podcast for a longer conversation after that. So it really was an honor to be able to drop in with Hanifa Nayo Washington in today’s podcast episode. But before we dive into today’s episode a word from our sponsors.
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0:03:22.0 PA: And it’s everything you need into one kit that you can use right outta the box and it comes pre sterilized and ready to use. Get your own medicine, start to do this work in a significant way, help to heal yourself, help to heal others. Let’s make the world a better place. And thanks for supporting the podcast. This is directly supporting our work at Third Wave, our mission, continuing to elevate and educate through the directory, providing great resources on who can you trust and who are great providers and retreats and clinics. And it’s products like these that support our initiatives, that also creates more resilience within the overall system, the network or even anti fragility. So 3W Podcasts, thanks so much.
0:04:00.0 PA: All right, that’s it for now, let’s dive into this episode. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Hanifa Nayo Washington. Hanifa, I just wanna welcome you to the podcast. It’s great to have you with us today.
0:04:12.7 HW: Thank you, Paul. It’s so wonderful to be with you here this morning.
0:04:17.5 PA: For any listeners who had a chance to attend the virtual summit that we hosted a few months ago, we had the honor of having you speak at that summit and provide a little bit of context around spiritual activism, spiritual resilience, a culture of belonging. And these are topics that I really wanna flush out and dive into today. But the tone that I like to set or the frame that I like to create for our listeners is just understanding a little bit more about your background, and about who you are. And doing some research on you before the show, it’s clear that you have a multifaceted background, you’ve been involved with many non-profits, you’ve helped to start some, and it seems like with Fireside and psychedelic medicine this is the sort of current iteration or current emergence of Hanifa. But I’d love if you could just sort of give that sort of landscape of who you are, what’s your background, and how did you land at Fireside as sort of your current initiative that you’re focused on?
0:05:27.4 HW: Well, I really appreciate this question. I love thinking about all of the things that brought me to this moment here today to be sharing this space with you and I just greatly appreciate you and your work as well. I think that for me I see life as this amazing gift, and I think I always have since I was a kid and I think that I’m very adventurous as well. And so I very much follow what feels present and also I know that my life has been such where it’s been built, like one event or experience sort of builds on the next and so I’m constantly just sort of evolving and in flow. And I feel I really have always gravitated to community, that’s kind of how I was born into. And so growing up in Detroit, Michigan, in the 70s and 80s, by the time I was five I was in my church choir.
0:06:34.2 HW: And there’s a lot that I’ve learned there that I carry with me, that was imprinted on me, that I carry around like, what does it mean to be one in the whole, so being a part of something, knowing that I belong to a greater group and community and family and purpose, that there’s more going on than just my own life. And so being in choir in the church was like a massive, wonderful starting ground for me and the church that I belonged to was, there was a lot of my family members who went to that church as well. And so there was always a sense of like family and community, always a sense of wanting to serve and make the world a better place and to give of one self, that was something that was instilled in me very early. And my kind of trajectory in terms of where I kind of grew up was Michigan, I went to… Spent some time in Texas for middle school and high school and then I went to college in Wisconsin.
0:07:44.7 HW: And then after that I really set out into the world, I did a lot of traveling, and really it was through traveling that I’ve learned, I feel like, the most in my life, Paul. [laughter] And so I have this deep instillment within me to serve, I really have… I’ve worked a lot, in my early years, in my 20s, with youth, so doing a lot of youth development work, and it was through really kind of discovering that I even liked working with young people that I really began to understand how important it is to build up younger generations, to give voice, to create structures of dismantling systems of power that might obstruct a young person from feeling connected or wanting to speak out or feeling like they belong. And so really in my youth development work is where I really began to really dive into what does it mean to belong, and how do you… We help our young people understand that and how to create those spaces for themselves and others.
0:08:51.8 HW: And I think that as my career kind of grew… I’m a human being, I’m living, I’m growing, I’m going through my own growth and development, I’m looking at my own traumas and the impact of them, and I was lucky enough to be able to connect with a community of folks who were kind of discovering themselves in the same way through exploring medicine and psychedelic medicine. So I really was very fortunate to connect with a medicine community and such a big part of the work for us was around the integration piece, like yes, we did ceremonies and we would support each other during those ceremonies. But it was the integration, that afterwards, okay, what happened? How did it feel? What’s going on now? What’s up for you? What’s going on in your body? Let’s get into the patterns, and that work afterwards and the community that formed was just super transformational for me because I feel like I certainly was somebody who can be very much quick to sort of like, let’s create the solution and let’s move forward.
0:10:07.5 HW: And so medicine work helped me to slow down and to bring pause into my life in a way that I never really had before. So there was a lot of things kind of working together, building me up along the way throughout my life and my career, and also running non-profits and community serving organizations and projects really helped me to learn a lot of different skills. Because when you’re working on a shoestring budget and you don’t have time also you kind of have to do it all, and I’m sure you know a little bit about this Paul, that like you learn how to build websites, you learn how to do design, you learn how to speak in the public, you learn how to raise money, you learn how to build network and for me it’s always like, and I’m always building community along the way, what that means is it’s not transactional. I’m not just coming to you and asking you for something and then walking away and see you next year or when I need something next, it’s about mutual aid but also just real actual, genuine human connection and care. How are you doing? What’s going on in your life? How can I support you today and in the future? What are the things that we can bring together? How do we build together? So these are always questions that I’m asking as I’m creating connections with folks, and that has been wildly determinant in terms of where I am and where I am today.
0:11:30.6 HW: I think working with Fireside Project and helping to co-found this organization has been one of the most amazing delights of my life because it came at a time when I was really just super vulnerable and open. I had gone through several just kind of big life changes and in 2019 I was, it was my year of yes, and so that was the year that I decided I’m gonna start saying yes just, things that I would just normally say no to or to invitations that I would think that I didn’t have time to go, I was just like, “I’m just gonna say yes.” And there was a book by Shonda Rhimes that was gifted to me by one of my mentors and it was the ‘Year of Yes’ and I had come out of a couple of ceremonies with the messages that was like, “You need to start saying yes.” And so one of those yeses was to go to Burning Man in 2019, which was the first time that I went to Burning Man [chuckle] and it was a wild adventure, one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, and also one of the worst things that I’ve ever done in my life, combined into one.
0:12:39.8 HW: But that is where I met Joshua White through mutual friends and we sort of struggled with a friendship and had amazing adventures out there, you can imagine. And then a year later he came… We sort of played phone tag like you do, but he intentionally reached out to me and was like, I really wanna talk to you about something. I have this idea, I don’t know if it’s gonna work, but I’m pretty excited about it, it was very much in idea stage and something that I also have done in my life is yeah, provide…
0:13:14.6 HW: I’ve started things and I’ve provided people with also just like a fertile space to be held as they’re thinking through ideas, like as a thought partner, and so we just kind of started off our relationship in that way. So he asked some questions, I answered them and I gave him some things to think about. What does it look? What does it feel? What’s the mission of this? Why? What is the purpose? And we were meeting once a week and then we started to meet, you know, meeting every two weeks and then it was every week and then it was… We just ended up talking like almost every day, and it was multiple times a day.
0:13:54.3 HW: And then it was just like, we’re two months in and clearly just running with this thing. And so it was, again, this really kind of organic process and also something that I was really excited about and wanted to really say yes to. And so I did. And then over, until the summer of 2020 we started meeting and then, yeah, by November of 2020 we officially launched Fireside Project and then in April of 2021 we launched the Psychedelic Peer Support Line.
0:14:25.5 PA: And now we’re here in September 2022.
0:14:27.6 HW: And now, here we are. [chuckle]
0:14:28.7 PA: And talking about all the things. Did you recently go to Burning Man again, or was 2019 sort of a one-and-done situation?
0:14:39.0 HW: Yeah, it’s so interesting, because when I went to Burning Man in 2019 I was like, “Wow, this is crazy” and I had mixed feelings about it. Honestly, to be totally honest with you, after leaving the first year I was like, “Oh, I’m never going back to this, this is crazy. My body needs to recoup, like oh my goodness.” And then the experience, I think, it took me a long time to integrate the entire experience. [laughter] But no, I am excited to go back. But this year it was like a no go, because we were gonna go as Fireside Project, we were wanna go strong, and we certainly weren’t able to pull it together to go this year. But next year, 2023 will be our return, like personal return, but sort of our first Burn as Fireside Project.
0:15:26.6 PA: I love that. I went to my first Burn, my first and only Burn in 2018, and I had a similar experience where it is a place of extremes in that way. And I remember… I’m a pretty sensitive sleeper and person generally, and so the first two nights I didn’t sleep at all basically. And then I just happened to run into two good friends who had a 50-foot RV for just them two and they kindly invited me in for the rest of the Burn and gave me a bed to sleep in.
0:15:56.5 HW: That’s nice.
0:15:57.4 PA: It was sort of fortunate.
0:15:58.9 HW: Oh my goodness, that is amazing. [laughter]
0:16:00.1 PA: Yes, so it’s like if I ever go back, and I now have a certain standard that need to be met, I’m gonna survive in this wild, wild place.
0:16:07.0 HW: Exactly, exactly.
0:16:09.7 PA: And this is beautiful, and I love to take notes to just sort of see how these pieces are all aligning in your story. And one thing that I wanted to come back to, as you had mentioned, early on in your work, you had done a lot of youth work and building up the youth and helping them to see through these systems of oppression because empowering the youth is so critical to the new paradigms that we create, and you sort of landed on this phrase of, “What does it mean to belong?” And I’d love if you could just go a little bit deeper into that. What does it mean to you to belong? What is belonging about? And what role have psychedelics or psychedelic medicines played in your sort of evolution, how you understand that process of belonging?
0:16:55.6 HW: Yeah. Oh, I love this. I absolutely know without a doubt that my psychedelic experiences have greatly shaped what I believe belonging is and how I move in the world in that aspect. And so I know that my, particularly experiences with mushrooms and psilocybin have taught me really to feel and embody what it means to be connected. We say this almost flippantly these days, “Everything is connected, everything is connected. We’re all one, like it’s been proven scientifically.” We know that we’re in a wave of energy and everything is energy exchange. So to me, I’m like, what does that mean if it is true that we are literally all connected in this way? What does it mean to be alive, what does it mean when I’m communicating, what does it mean when I’m listening? What does it mean when I have an exchange with someone? And I take this to be like a sacred experience. And so I think that being able to be in communication with another is this really powerful miracle, if you wanna call it that, and there’s a lot of reverence there to me.
0:18:26.4 HW: And so I think when I talk about belonging I talk about, one, first of all, I lift up belonging because of the suffering in the world, the way humanity sort of spirals is through this lens that we don’t belong. We’ve been conditioned to feel like we don’t belong and so we have to figure out how to belong, or that there’s something, yeah, distinctly wrong with us where we can’t be accepted or we won’t be accepted. And there’s a lot of anxiety and separation in the worlds and there are literal systems in the world, particularly in the United States, where we talk about any of the isms, right? Racism, sexism, the patriarchy, any sort of social disparities. All of these things have been created, they’re not happenstance, they’ve actually been systems that were created to create division and separation and control, to control us, to control people, to control the lives of others. To understand this is to either do something about it or to basically continue to be complicit. And so to me, belonging is like the amino acid of systems change and change work.
0:20:02.2 HW: And so that’s, to me it’s empowering first, because to me belonging is about understanding that I belong, for you to understand that you already belong, you create your own belonging and that means nobody and no system can separate you from this truth that we’re all connected and that we are interdependent. And so if I know that to be true, I know that how I communicate with others, how I think about others, how I communicate to myself, how I think about myself, really, really matters on the day-to-day, in the long term of how these systems will either continue to control or how they will fall away or how I can decide I’m not, in this moment, going to be complicit in upholding that system.
0:21:06.4 HW: Because systems are upheld by individuals. And often we think like, oh, yes, these systems are created and there’s these overlords, but they depend on us to internalize that oppression and to carry those systems forward. When you know I belong to you, Paul, and you belong to me, there’s a different way of being, there’s a different energy exchange that happens and it’s palpable and you can feel it, and a lot of people when they talk to me or they’re meeting with me they’re just like, there’s something about how you are. It’s because I fully know and live in a way that I belong and that it’s sacred, and I believe that for you and for all the people and beings that I meet as well.
0:21:54.8 HW: And so when I move in this way, I am constantly thinking about how can I then create a way in for others to understand belonging for themselves and then it’s like is a chain reaction. The more you do that, people kind of see it and understand it and experience and feel it and it’s hard to un-know that. [laughter] And so then it creates this chain reaction where we take responsibility for ourselves and understand that we have to continue to grow these practices together. And I know this might sound like really esoteric, but it’s very energetic and it’s less of a logic. And I hope that you can follow that.
0:22:55.1 PA: Well, and what’s coming up for me is, maybe to ground this in a specific example, I went to a workshop about a month ago in Prague and it was sort of like a movement dance coordination workshop. And one of the teachers there, he is the national team coach for the Greek Olympians who are wrestlers. And so he was teaching us some of the fundamentals of footwork whenever you are wrestling, and that we are always with a teammate. And one thing that he said that stuck with me is that your job, when you are in that container of play, if you will, is to take care of your teammate. You’re not trying to destroy them, you’re not trying to hurt them, you are not trying to harm them because you are in this aspect of belonging with them, this aspect of reciprocity, your capacity to grow and develop as a wrestler is interdependent on their ability to be healthy and give you sort of an active sense of competition, if you will.
0:24:00.4 PA: And I see a sort of similar thing where, you mentioned earlier on that psychedelics in particular helped you to go from being outcome oriented to much more around the ceremony and the experience and sort of the play itself. And I think that aspect of belonging when we can sink into, there is not a number that we need to hit in our bank account or there isn’t a certain aspect that we need to grow to in order to feel seen, loved and heard, that belonging is really our natural state and when we can sink into that natural state then it’s much easier for us to be in relationship with others, with ourselves, with nature, with that sense of inter-being, if you will.
0:24:50.0 HW: Yes, so beautifully restated. And I think that there is something super powerful about understanding that it’s also this wonderful opportunity, that literally every exchange is this opportunity to, like you said, take care of each other. And also when I talk about belonging it’s not just this like rainbows and glitter ponies or whatever, it’s also about like, how can I be able to show up fully authentic knowing that I belong and that you belong and that we all belong, and also be open to being reflected back to like, oh, this is happening right now in this moment and this is how I’m perceiving who you are, how am I contributing to what’s happening right now. How are perhaps some of my patterns of destruction, how are some of my patterns of oppression showing up in this moment?
0:25:53.9 HW: How am I perhaps giving my power away or how am I using my power over someone. And so this concept of conscious co-creation in this way to me is very much tied to a sense of belonging. And I think that’s in my work that I’ve done with one of my really powerful mentors in my life, Niyonu Spann, who I studied conscious co-creation with for many years, she is just such a powerful woman, but she created this training called Beyond Diversity 101, which I feel like in my, these most recent chapters of my life has been like a bedrock of philosophy for me and it really is all centered around that question of, how am I consciously using my power? That is what conscious co-creation is. And so when we practice conscious co-creation the results can only be more equity, more inclusion, more liberation, more belonging because we are consciously deciding to track and, sort of track and be aware of what we’re building in the moment with others.
0:27:19.0 HW: And I feel like my psychedelic work is just, is so much mirrors these concepts of… ‘Cause what it’s all about, Paul, as you know, is awareness. When you have awareness you can build better understanding about what the problem is and what’s going on or about what solutions might be, about what things might be in the way, where are the barriers, and then you can take action and then that just leads to… It’s a cycle, it just leads to more understanding and greater awareness and it just keeps going and going. And so yeah, those are some of the, kind of basic tenets of my life in these years.
0:28:06.6 PA: And it’s also a process that when we start to enter it feels unusually slow compared to maybe how we’ve been conditioned to operate or conditioned to be, because that process of awareness is not something that can necessarily be rushed. And particularly like to root it in some of what you’re talking about around growing up as an African-American woman in the United States that has years and years of not only oppression, systemic oppression against people who are black, people who are Asian, people who are colored but also against women in general. And so that, I think holding that energy, also what I’m hearing is it’s been central to your story because there’s also a level of solidarity, and probably you learned this in church choir and learned this with your family and learned this growing up in Detroit. By the way, I’m also from Michigan but the west side.
0:29:07.9 HW: Oh, nice.
0:29:08.0 PA: From Grand Rapids. And so I just kind of hear how central all of that is to your story. And so that leads me into the next question, which is just around, something around the psychedelic space, it is a largely white space. It is a largely even science and research focus space, although that’s changing more and more as we brought more awareness, the need for, let’s say diversity and belonging. I’m just curious, from your lens, from your perspective, what is it like to hold the torch that you hold in the psychedelic space? What challenges have come up? What are you grateful for in being able to hold that torch and what you embody and what you represent? Just how has that been for you? ‘Cause it’s still fairly recent for you, it’s just the last maybe 18, 24 months so it’s still probably bubbling in some ways.
0:30:08.9 HW: Yeah. It’s so funny to me sometimes when I look back just at the past 24 months and the sprint that we’ve been on with launching Fireside Project and just how much I’ve been in different whatever media, interviews I’ve done, and I certainly didn’t wake up one day and decide, hey, I wanna be carrying a torch and that sort of thing in…
0:30:33.2 PA: You were just kind of thrown into it in some ways, right? Like…
0:30:36.3 HW: Actually yes. So I think that there’s, again I see my life as this secession, like it builds. And so I think that without the work that I’ve done internally, with the aid of psychedelics over the past 10 years, like there’s no way that I think would be here or could be here holding this torch and sort of representing in a way. I feel like I represent different things to different people in this space and even just saying this space is very, this is something I’m always talking about, like what is the psychedelic space? What are you talking about when you say psychedelic space? I think there’s something also very intrinsically, unconsciously, colonizing in this question, because the thing is, it’s like, well, this question of, where are the black people in the psychedelic space? And, we need more diversity and it’s like, okay, who is the “We” here? So we’re talking about we, who is that?
0:31:39.3 HW: And like, there are so many different spaces where psychedelics are central and thriving that are not just the United States in this particular moment in time. So I just, when I think about the, when we say psychedelic space, I just challenge us to think about, well, what is that, and who decides what that is? Because I’ve been in the psychedelic spaces for years, that we’re all black or people of color. So I think in this sort of above ground renaissances moment that’s very much about following what’s gonna happen and when things are legalized and not declining. So when things are legalized and decriminalized above ground, that’s the space we’re talking about, the sort of arena. And so I think for me, I’m all about…
0:32:44.3 HW: Everything I do I’m like, it’s more liberty, liberation, more equity, more belonging, because that’s what we need because these systems are so alive and decisive. And so I think one of the the torches that I carry is about, how do we make equity real? How do we make it real? We can throw the word around or we can talk about it, but what does it look like in actual practice? And so with Fireside Project one of the most amazing things, I think, that we are moving into to provide is this sense of choice. When you offer choice you’re automatically breaking down that system, the systems of oppression, because you’re inviting people in to actually have power to decide anything about their healing experience and/or mental health experience and/or the health that they wanna receive.
0:33:47.9 HW: So the equity initiative that we launched in February with Fireside Project was about saying we understand that there is a lack of representation, if you will, in this moment, in the above ground of sort of United States psychedelic space and we would like to see it representative of the people who actually need access to this medicine the most. And so how do we get there? What do we do? So one of the things is, we at Fireside Project, without our volunteers would be nothing because the whole, the cycle of the peer support line is run by peer support volunteers.
0:34:35.3 HW: And we want to make sure that our volunteer community is also representative of the people who need the support the most. And so our desire was to be able to bring in folks who are coming from the BIPOC communities, from military veterans, from the transgender communities to know that they could have a space on the line to be trained as a peer support volunteer and to provide at least, at the very least, starting with after integration support. So if someone was transgender or someone was a military veteran or if someone was Asian or LatinX or Black, they could call the support line and ask for an affinity peer to integrate their past experience with. So we began that initiative in February, began to recruit volunteers from these communities, train the volunteers and now they’re on the support line.
0:35:39.2 HW: So any time when the line is open, someone can call and request an affinity volunteer to integrate with, because we understand that it creates a space of safety and belonging. It creates a space of, where vulnerability and trust can be there. And when you’re processing a psychedelic experience, some of these experiences could be one of the most impactful things that you’ve never done in your life. And so there’s often things that are sensitive that one might not bring up if they weren’t speaking with someone from their shared affinity group and that might be the very thing they actually need. And so providing that choice, providing choice is like the bedrock of equity. And so beginning there, we also understand that providing culturally attuned care is one thing, but then how do we change the face of the psychedelic movement or the psychedelic space?
0:36:39.6 HW: How do we bring in these different communities to actually, to be pillars in that space? And so there needs to be access, access to tools, access to funding, access to education, access to the networks, right? And so we’ve created, this sort of other side of our equity initiative is around our volunteers who are affinity peers, who take the affinity calls. After they complete their year of service, we are then offering them access to scholarships. We have collaborations and partnerships with institutions in the space like CIIS, like Naropa University, the MAPS PBC MDMA Training Program, Fluence Psychedelic.support and others, to provide full scholarships or some partial scholarships to their programs. So access to that training is key, as well as there are several clinicians and researchers that we’re pairing up our volunteers with who might wanna do internships.
0:37:48.0 HW: So Dr. Robin Carhart Harris is offering spaces, as well as Dr. Monica T. Williams, Dr. Chris Stauffer as well, and others are joining in there. And then we have a Fireside Fund that we’re developing, a small fund that people can apply for micro grants too. So perhaps you need a small expense covered or a portion of a tuition covered, that’s not a part of the tuitions that we already have or scholarships we already have. Our volunteers, affinity volunteers, can apply for grants to support their advancement within the psychedelic space. And so our hope is like long term, it’s very much about what… It’s a long game, and we understand that. And I think there are a lot of people who wanna see change happen immediately and that’s just not reality. So we are in it for the long haul and we want in time 100% of our volunteers to be from all these different types of communities and not just limited to the sort of three that we’re focusing on now.
0:38:51.4 HW: We know that there’s all types of interlocking systems of oppression and different groups are marginalized for different things, and so we’re aware of that and we’ll grow those affinity groups over time. But I think that we would love to see people have real inroads into the space and then be in a network with us. So our Fireside network where it’s like, you can lean on each other, you can ask, you can get recommendations, because we all know that that’s where the juice is. You could have all of the education, you could have even access to funds, but if you don’t have the in or the network or the knowing, connections with others it’s really hard in this space right now. Not hard, but it can be challenging to advance. And so we want to just equip our Fireside fellows as they come out with as much support as possible for their success.
0:39:44.5 PA: And so one thing that’s just, kind of practically, that’s coming up for me as we’re talking through this is, let’s say we have some people who are listening to this podcast who want to become involved with Fireside, and maybe for the peer support line or in other ways, what’s the best way to do that? Would it be go to the website? Is there a way… Yeah, just kind of talk us through that.
0:40:06.1 HW: Yeah, the best way is to join our newsletter. So we send our newsletter monthly, sometimes a couple of times a month, but usually it’s like once, and we have all the updates in terms of when our next training period is coming, any kind of news that’s happening within the organization and whatnot. So it’s the best way to kinda keep a pulse on what’s happening with this. Go to the website, firesideproject.org, join the newsletter. Follow us on all of the socials, social media. And I think that’s honestly the best way to track, to see what’s happening, because things also within Fireside can happen very quickly because of the nature of… We’re a start-up, honestly, if you think about it, so our half-life is very short. So right now, we’re in a place where our call volume is like kind of… It’s really cranking up. So we’re actually, in this moment we have, volunteer applications are open until September 30th. I don’t know when this is airing but…
0:41:12.4 PA: I think before that. Could be before that.
0:41:13.4 HW: We are in the process of bringing on… Okay. Yeah, we’re in the process of bringing in volunteers now. And it looks like as we go, just looking back at the past two years, about two to three times a year we bring on, or recruit, we do open calls for volunteers and that is one of the best ways to get involved with the organization. If you have a specialty and you are like, “I really want to… ” Really want to offer this thing that’s unique to you, and it’s not all about volunteering in the line, send us an email. We’re always open to requests if you feel like, I really have this particular set of skills, whether it’s like legal or technical or whatever, you never know how you can contribute, so don’t shy away from that either. And you can just email at [email protected]
0:42:07.4 PA: Perfect. Thank you for all of that helpful information. I wanna get back into the philosophical and all the other wonderful things we were talking about and just have a chance to zoom out again because… And then towards the end of the podcast I’ll get back a few more into the particulars. But I’m curious, you kinda have a few phrases. You have three phrases that I love in particular, and we’ve already talked about one of them, which is the sort of culture of belonging, and you sort of present yourself as a culture of belonging facilitator, which I think is beautiful. But then there’s two other phrases that I just, I would love for you to just sort of explain or talk through a little bit about how maybe they’ve shown up in your life or sort of how you perceive them. One is spiritual resilience, which I think is a really beautiful phrase, and then the second, which you’ve mentioned off-hand already, but just to maybe go further deeper into it, is sacred activism. So what is spiritual resilience, what is sacred activism, how have those shown up in your life? Just give us the goods.
0:43:19.4 HW: Yeah. So to me, when I look at the works that I’ve done in the worlds in terms of the youth development work I’ve done, and I’ve done a lot of work around food sovereignty, a lot of work around public education, all of the… I’m very much involved in the arts, so I’ve directed a few plays, and I’m a singer-songwriter as well. I see it all as activism and to me activism is about… To me in its core it’s about like inspiring people, giving people a call to action, it’s about uplifting truth that might be hard for people to understand and/or accept, it’s about outlining a way forward and equipping people with the tools to be able to move forward.
0:44:38.5 HW: And so to me sacred activism and spiritual resilience are very much tied together and being spiritual resilient is required when you are involved in sacred activism, and I’m going to get into this. So what’s the difference between activism and sacred activism, someone might say. To me, the sacredness comes back to this, my core belief around belonging and around that life is a miracle and that life itself is sacred.
0:45:14.4 HW: My work here is to continue to support others in remembering this truth for themselves, that they are sacred, that they are a miracle, that they are precious, that life is precious and that our work here is to, like you were saying earlier in a beautiful way, to belong to each other and that, though that sounds very simple, it takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of undoing and the sacredness to me is in creating the spaces to dig in and to begin to undo so that you can return… So that I can return or that we can return to being in full capacity and full awareness. I feel that I, for a very long time and I still am always practicing.
0:46:21.1 HW: It was variously very fogged over, very not enlivened or awake, because I was living my life by untruths so that my core operating systems are built on lies that I made true, they were built on myths. And a lot of those things were around like internalized depression and/or just accepting the status quo and the messages that come from society or from the media. And so the desire and the practice to look at one’s patterns of oppression, to understand how that’s showing up and embodied in words and in relationships, that practice to me is a sacred thing, making a space for that. And inevitably when we do that work, how we then show up in the world again is going to be in a way that is creating more peace, more equity, more liberation. And some activism isn’t necessarily based in those practices and can be very much driven by the very systems that some activists or movements are trying to dismantle, they’re actually showing up in how they’re organized and are showing up in how they move.
0:48:12.5 HW: So you say that you want equity and liberation for all people, but the practices that you do in your organization are actually just mirroring the very same things that you’re trying to dismantle, in terms of how are you making decisions, how is power being shared within your organization? Are you putting people first? How are you in relationship with each other? And so to me, the spiritual resilience, that is the key to pausing and the time that you reflect and begin to integrate the new practices that counter these systems of oppression or patterns of oppression. And it takes a special type, a particular type and a persistent type of practice to stay true to your sacred activism. It’s not just about self-care, which is really important, right? So self-care, how are you nourishing your body and your spirit and your relationships, how are you taking time to pause or… Self-care is so important. Resilience, spiritual resilience is about internally tracking, where am I, how am I feeling depleted in what I say that I’m doing and what I do in the world? Are those things congruent? If they’re not, then why, and what are the practices that I’m doing to reflect on that?
0:50:08.6 HW: It might look like journaling writing, it might look like talking and having someone else, like a mentor or a buddy or someone who you are in community with to reflect back to, to be like, okay, here are the things that I’ve set out to do, these are the things that keep showing up, getting in the way of me doing them. Or I… When I show up in a group I’m shrinking and I’m not speaking up or I am diverting my attention to some other pattern of being. I’m not saying the things or the truths that I know that I need to say. Practices of spiritual resilience are about understanding your own power, like your own unique power, and pausing and creating enough space to evaluate if you are truly aligned with using that power for belonging, for liberation for all. And so to me, spiritual resistance, it’s not resistance, resilience, is about taking some stock and evaluation, and that’s gonna look different for everybody. So there’s not one way to have spiritual resilience or to be in spiritual resilience practices.
0:51:52.3 HW: But that resilience to be able to get up every day and to move the ball a little bit more forward in this movement of liberty and equity for all, the energy that it takes to do that and to stay true to it, that resilience is, by all means needs to be protected and it needs to be understood, it needs to be evaluated. So spiritual resilience is about what is that… What are the practices and the community and the beliefs that are necessary for me to stay true to my sacred activism, to the things that I’ve set out to do in this life, that I know will impact and liberate many people? That’s gonna look different for each person, but also it is so important to take this space to cloak yourself in the community to give yourself time to reflect and to give yourself time to just pause to let the mind and the body and the spirit to do what they do. There’s just a lot of amazing things that happen when we pause and this is what mindfulness is about, this is what meditation is about, and I think that those three things coupled together provide a resilience that is necessary for the longevity and the success of liberatory movements.
0:53:48.2 PA: One thing that’s coming up for me in terms of this relationship between psychedelics, spiritual resilience and sacred activism, one is that in community resilience is always amplified and so for any community or group of people that have an intention towards freedom, liberation, equity, choice, as you mentioned, choice being the bedrock of equity, there is power in numbers, so to say. And this is something they often communicate to the coaches who enroll in our training program through a Third Wave, is that a lot of the work that we’re doing is quite pioneering and if they were to try to go at this alone, they would feel isolated or they would feel intimidated, but knowing that they are surrounded by other capable coaches who have a similar goal and intention empowers them to actually take on something that otherwise they would not feel capable of doing.
0:54:40.2 PA: And then what’s beautiful about psychedelic medicine when it comes… I really see psychedelic medicine as a phenomenal tool to cultivate spiritual resilience because it reminds us of our power and that our power is connected to something greater than ourselves and that power that comes from this greater force, so to say, it can help us to stay calm in the midst of chaos or calm in the midst of challenge or difficulty, because we’re reminded of our gifts and what we’re here to sort of do and create and so… And then that all ties in many ways to guiding or facilitation. We talked about your ceremonial experiences earlier, and I think something that’s so central for any guide or facilitator in a psychedelic container is that sacred activism, because almost all of us who are doing this work or have been doing this work are breaking the law, to some degree, or have been breaking the law to some degree.
0:55:43.0 PA: And so even for someone like me who, I’m a white male, and yet I’ve been doing and talking about psychedelics publicly for the last seven years in a state and place where it’s largely illegal and that, I think, just in this conversation in reflection is my own pathway of sacred activism, because I believe that psychedelics should be tools that are available, they’re medicines that should be available, and working with them is often a reminder of that. So just a few reflections more than anything, because I think everything you’re sharing is so powerful, and the reminder of how psychedelic medicine can amplify a lot of these elements around belonging, sacred activism and spiritual resilience is important.
0:56:27.0 HW: Absolutely. Yeah, I think some of my earliest experiences with psychedelics before I had these more reverential relationship with them, it was the message, it was like everything is connected, like you are not out here all by yourself. And so to fully just give myself to that reality it has just been a true lesson and gift to like… And really hard because then I have to accept in a way that like, wow, there’s a lot of responsibility in the interconnectedness and there’s a lot of… There’s a lot of things that can go wrong, but also like I have to also be ready and willing to work on myself and to build myself up and to also know when I am in error and when my ego is out of control and when I am misguided by my power or misusing it. And that happens, it’s a moment to moment practice, Paul, this is not like… I think the minute we think that we’re above the work, we have failed. And so spiritual resilience and all of this work, culture of belonging, sacred activism, it’s also about saying, “I’m in this work with you. I’m not complete, I’m ever, ever growing, ever changing and we’re in this together.”
0:58:20.6 PA: It’s like a humility of sorts, right? Like a humbleness or a…
0:58:25.8 HW: Yes.
0:58:27.8 PA: A bowing to something greater. Okay. Final question before we wrap up and it’s maybe not so much a question as an invitation, is I noticed you have a psychedelic retreat coming up, a medicine retreat for black women in particular, and I’d love if you could just tell our listeners a little bit about sort of the origins of that retreat, kind of some of the details. Some people will be listening to this months from now and you’d have already done the retreat, but I’m sure there’ll be more retreats. So I’d love just to hear kind of like how this came about and what your vision is for it and all that.
0:59:02.2 HW: Yeah. Yeah, no, I appreciate it. So I recently did this nine-day retreat in Ecuador with the beautiful facility called Nina Wasi and it was… I was invited by Dr. Monica Williams to come down with a small group of healers and therapists in the space, literally for like our own sort of, ‘Who heals the healer’ kind of retreat, so it was a retreat for healers. And it was really beautiful and four… Four? No, three ceremonies, workshops, integration space, beautiful location, very… It was very much needed for me at the time. I realized that I’m not practicing what I preach and like I have been going full tilt for two years in getting Fireside off the ground and whatnot and I really just hadn’t taken a break and needed to reset.
1:00:16.0 HW: So I loved the invitation, it was really wonderful, and to work with Monica and to be down there, and to work with the facilitators there, Dr. Jonathan Flores was just amazing. And his partner, they run Nina Wasi together, her name is Sophia, and she kind of handles some of the technical pieces and the menu and the food and helping to hold the space in the ceremony. Jonathan is, been training with the Shipibo for the past 14 years and is also an MD. And so we… The week was like super powerful. And one of the bigger, we’re working with mushrooms, we’re working with Huachuma and Ayahuasca, and one of the bigger downloads, messages, that I received during that time was also like, you can only serve one master [chuckle] and that’s your truest highest self.
1:01:24.6 HW: And so who else are you trying to serve, trying to serve too many. And so it was really big sort of remembering and it’s something I definitely fall prey to as I’m looking at my patterns of coming from my traumas and as I’m healing from them, I… They’re always kind of popping up in terms of like wanting to be a people-pleaser, feeling like I need to have a lot of options because of scarcity. So it was this really great reset and remembering and I was very… And there was a lot of other things, beautiful things that came out of that experience. And one of those was an invitation from Monica to help coordinate more groups to come down. And for me getting into this work, in 2019 I started One Village Healing, which is a, now because of the pandemic we had to go virtual, a virtual kind of healing space that is BIPOC focused.
1:02:22.5 HW: And so we do a lot of aftercare and integration type practices. So we have yoga classes, we do Reiki meditation, we have some talk groups, we do art therapy, trauma and healing and release work and it’s BIPOC centered. And it’s also a place where we feel like this is a place for psychedelic literacy as well as integration and support. And it was always, it’s always sort of like the goal… Top of line vision is about how do we get, how can I get more brown and black people to understand psychedelics and to begin to build their own relationship with them, also knowing that they’re not for everybody, but to just create more access where there’s places where you can be curious and ask questions and places where you can sit in an affinity group to do this work together.
1:03:34.0 HW: And so to me, being able to work with all black women in a retreat-type environment is like very much like a dream come true and it is something that Monica definitely has been working on and wants to see more of. And so she really found a way to find some financial support because like you were saying, this things are not legal in the United States, you can only really legally do ketamine and still with that, there’s all types of restriction to access to these treatments, and so you, we’re often forced by means of legality to go to other countries to do this work. And so I said, I would love to help co-host and co-facilitate a group of black women to come and work with the amazing folks at Nina Wasi. So I will be hosting a group, November 28th through December 6th, down in Ecuador. There are some scholarships available, partial scholarships.
1:04:47.5 HW: The application and process for registering is open now and there’s only 10 spots left and once those spots are filled we’ll close the registration and application process. But it’s open now still and it is literally a time and very much co-designed to be a time to go within, to go within and to reconnect with the inner teacher, the inner mother, and to reflect on what were some of the barriers and blockages there. It’s gonna be super, just like tender and beautiful, and I hope to continue to lead more groups of black women in this space as well as begin to create pathways for black men and other people of color to come and experience the retreat. So I will be sort of co-hosting and doing a lot of the inter-in-between ceremony work, and so being able to support the integration process, doing some workshops as well as in the journey space, or in the ceremonial space, like holding the space, supporting people emotionally and setting the container, sharing some music and some ritual as well.
1:06:19.5 PA: That’s beautiful.
1:06:39.4 PA: Congrats.
1:06:39.5 HW: I’m like super, super excited.
1:06:42.8 PA: They’re fun, they’re… Having started doing retreats specific to psychedelics in 2018 and now continuing to do them through Third Wave, there’s… It kind of comes back to everything we’ve talked about today, that culture of belonging, you know, there’s only so much connection you can really cultivate, so to say, over virtual, to be in-person, to be with people as they’re moving through their experience and sometimes through some of the most profound experiences that they’ve ever had. It’s a really beautiful experience. So I’m very happy for you and grateful that you’re doing this. It’s much in, so thank you.
1:07:21.6 HW: Thank you, Paul. Yeah.
1:07:23.8 PA: Well, this has been…
1:07:25.5 HW: Yeah, I’m really thrilled so…
1:07:28.6 PA: I would say it’s been a beautiful interview and a beautiful hour that we’ve had you with us today. We’ve had a chance to go through, you know, start with your story and learn more about your upbringing and how that led to Fireside and the work that you’re doing around belonging. We’ve learned a little bit about Fireside and then I also got a chance to hear about the retreat that you’re hosting. So I just, I wanna thank you for coming on the podcast. I’d also love, I know you already mentioned your personal website, handsofhanifa.com, if people wanna learn more about Fireside, any other resources or places that you’d like to point people to here at the end of the episode?
1:08:07.8 HW: Yes. So 62FIRESIDE is the number to call or text if you are in a psychedelic experience and you want some real time support or if you’re processing any past experience that you’ve ever had, you can also call or text 62FIRESIDE, we’re by your side. And you wanna check out our website, it is firesideproject.org. If you go to our app page, you can download our beautiful app that just makes psychedelic real time support that much faster and easier, particularly when you might be in an experience, the app was designed to be super easy to navigate. Yeah, follow us on social media. We’re on Instagram and Facebook @firesideproject. And I just, our Twitter handle just totally, just went out of my brain.
1:09:03.3 PA: That’s okay. We can link to the Twitter handle as well.
1:09:05.5 HW: I’m like, what is it called? I think it’s called Glow Fireside, you can find us there as well. On LinkedIn, we’re kinda on all over social media, not so much on TikTok, but … Yeah. I hope you check us out. Please join our mailing list, it’s the best way to track what’s going on with us and to stay up-to-date. Thank you so much, Paul.
1:09:29.7 PA: Thank you, Hanifa.
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