The Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave
Regenerative Stewardship: Evolving the Psychedelic Retreat Model
Natasja Pelgrom & Alexander Beiner
Natasja Pelgrom & Alexander Beiner, creators of the Regenerative Stewardship retreat, join Paul F. Austin to discuss their approach to healing.
Natasja Pelgrom is a visionary leader, mystical mentor and the founder of Awaken The Medicine Within retreats and programs, supporting people with psycho-spiritual approaches since 2017. Natasja is a highly intuitive guide and has held training, assisting and facilitation roles in over 800 psychedelic ceremonies. Natasja was also a founding member of the Synthesis Institute, and the director of the psilocybin-assisted Wellness retreats. As a key curator of the retreat programs, she oversaw the retreat team development and training. She currently advises and supervises executives in the (psychedelic) wellness industry.
Natasja is also a mentor to leaders, coaches, therapists, and space holders, where she focuses on mind and heart coherence to help them prosper in their services. Natasja’s multifaceted mentorship approach is paired with 20+ years of entrepreneurial experience. Alexander Beiner is an author and facilitator. He’s one of the founders of the media and events platform, Rebel Wisdom, and an executive director of Breaking Convention, Europe’s longest-running conference on psychedelic medicine and culture. His upcoming book, The Bigger Picture: How Psychedelics Can Help Us Make Sense of the World (Hay House, 2023) explores how psychedelics could transform culture and society. Trained as a counselor and meditation teacher, Alexander also runs retreats centered on combining practices drawn from cognitive science, wisdom traditions and psychedelic philosophy to create powerful group experiences. He has a particular interest in the phenomenology of the psychedelic experience and how we can combine ritual, practice and collective intelligence to expand consciousness in new ways.
- How Natasja and Alexander’s paths crossed, leading to their co-creation of a psychedelic retreat.
- Rebel Wisdom — Alexander’s background and approach.
- Regenerative Stewardship — the ethos behind their retreat.
- Thinking beyond the “Hero’s Journey” and beyond “self-care” to a wider, more balanced vision.
- Looking to indigenous wisdom and psychedelics for a new cosmology and way of being.
- Why Natasja & Alexander chose psilocybin as the central medicine for the Regenerative Stewardship retreat.
- The wisdom of being flexible in one’s approach to preparation, experience, and integration.
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0:00:00.0 Paul Austin: Hey folks, welcome back to The Psychedelic Podcast. Today I am speaking with Natasja Pelgrom and Alexander Beiner.
0:00:08.4 Natasja Pelgrom: We are not priming you with some leadership tools, and here you go. Now here is a high dose of truffles with psilocybin, and you go work on this protocol. [laughter] That’s not it. We, of course, there is a specific type of quality that we bring forth, a type of essence that is felt that we can’t say in words because we are committed and we bring an intention. But I think everything comes down to deep listening into that space. It isn’t a protocolized system, again. That’s really important to name.
0:00:47.9 PA: Welcome to The Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave, audio mycelium connecting you to the luminaries and thought leaders of the psychedelic renaissance. We bring you illuminating conversations with scientists, therapists, entrepreneurs, coaches, doctors, and shamanic practitioners, exploring how we can best use psychedelic medicine to accelerate personal healing, peak performance, and collective transformation.
0:01:23.6 PA: Hey, listeners. I’m so excited to have Natasja and Alexander on the podcast today. They are in the process of launching a new retreat at the intersection of psychedelics, regenerative living, and stewardship models of leadership, and looking at it through the lens of how psilocybin can help facilitate changes in how we show up and how we lead in organizations and how we lead in teams and how we lead in our lives, in family, in all these sorts of things. Natasja, we’ve had on the podcast before, where we talked about her role as a 5-MeO-DMT facilitator and our background working together at a retreat that I started a number of years ago. So today gives a chance to hear a little bit more from Alexander, who is a co-founder of Rebel Wisdom and also helped to lead Breaking Convention. And so Alexander adds a really articulate element to this podcast episode that I think you all will enjoy. And, of course, Natasja is brilliant and beautiful as always. But before we dive into today’s episode, a word from our sponsors.
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Without further ado, we bring you Natasja Pelgrom and Alexander Beiner.
0:04:05.1 PA: Hey, listeners. Welcome back to The Psychedelic Podcast. Today we have quite the duo with us. We have Alexander Beiner, the co-founder of Rebel Wisdom and co-director of Breaking Convention, and Natasja Pelgrom, who is the founder of Awaken the Medicine Within and mentors and coaches emerging leaders in this new psychedelic paradigm. And I brought them both on today to talk about a new retreat that they’re offering. But even more so than that, what the retreat represents, the why behind the retreat. It’s called Regenerative Stewardship, and it is a five-day psilocybin retreat in the Netherlands. It’s really focused on emergent leadership models. So I first wanna welcome you both to the show. Natasja, it’s great to have you back. And Alexander, it’s great to have you as a guest on the show for the first time.
0:04:54.6 NP: Thank you so much.
0:04:55.0 Alexander Beiner: Yeah, great to be here. Thanks for having us.
0:04:57.8 PA: So we have a duo on like this. Those who have listened before, they know how we like to approach it. The opener, just to help provide some context and anchoring, that I’d like to invite us into is sort of our relational context. So in other words, how do you two know each other? How has this relationship been born, grown, developed, emerged? Why are we here today talking about this incredible retreat that you are planning to host for the foreseeable future?
0:05:33.1 NP: Shall I go first, Alex?
0:05:34.9 AB: Yeah, please do. Please do. I was hoping you would.
0:05:37.8 NP: And we’re looking at each other, for those that are listening, we’re looking at each other, “You go first.” “You go first.” Well, first things first, we always have to honor the path that led us here. For the three of us, it’s a path of deep holding space and our love to contribute to something better to this world, so honoring that for the three of us here. And then, of course, Alexander and I met in a beautiful psychedelic container, and we held space together. And for me, that was the moment where I was really observing, what does it mean to hold space? What is a space holder? What are the qualities of a balanced space holder? And I was really questioning that, and this was back in beginning of 2019. And I remember seeing Ali hold space for a group process in a retreat, and I was like, “Wow, what a breath of fresh air. He’s got it.” [chuckle] So that was just really inspirational. But nothing got born in that moment.
0:06:38.0 NP: It was actually after last year, I had a 5-MeO retreat, and those that are interested in my previous journey, Paul has interviewed me in another podcast, so that will be probably in the show notes. But I had a 5-MeO retreat, and during the medicine and providing the medicine, and sometimes, of course, I work on myself, I got a very clear vision. And Ali was part of that vision. And we didn’t have contact for a long time. And I just sent him a message, “Hey, we need to talk. I have a vision. [laughter] You want to host a retreat together?” And a first message came back, “Oh my God, yes. Been thinking about that.” [laughter] So that was our initial get-together. We took a year, literally, to birth this. We’ve sat in ceremony together. We’ve explored many different avenues. We wanted to bridge Ali’s talent, my talent. And then, through coincidences, which I don’t really see as coincidences, but let’s just keep it like that, coincidences and divine alignment, Regenerative Stewardship came aboard with both our passion, which we’ll go deeper into. But I give Alexander some opportunity to share his story with us.
0:07:53.7 AB: Yeah, that was really beautifully shared, so I don’t have so much to add to the origin except that my feeling was very similar, watching you work. And you were leading that retreat. And I was, very fittingly, perhaps, for what we’re talking about, really struck by and impressed by your leadership and space holding and just the level of care. And Natasja is very detail-oriented as well, which I’m not. So I always have great respect for that. [chuckle] I really admire that. So yeah, certainly that combination of ceremonial holding and interpersonal work is something I’m really, really interested in, and that I think is often… Well, let’s say that I think we’re all birthing it as we speak. It’s quite new, in a sense, to combine the kind of background I have, which is much more… And my training, which is much more in non-psychedelic, not therapeutic necessarily but non-psychedelic personal growth processes, which go really deep without using drugs, which go really deep into the relational space in the kind of embodied, using movement and connection and ritual and, of course, ceremony as well. That’s the kind of world… Well, I come from the psychedelic world first, then I got into that world. And then I became very interested in, what does a combination look like between these two worlds? And that’s what I was so excited when Natasja wrote. I thought immediately, “Yes, this is definitely something I want to explore.”
0:09:37.7 PA: And Ali, if we could, I’d love just to flesh that background out a little bit more. I mentioned in the intro, co-founder of Rebel Wisdom. Would love a little bit of context on, what is Rebel Wisdom? How did that come about? I know that project also has recently come to completion. So just, I think that’ll help create a little more context for the conversation today. And what has you… You mentioned personal growth. You now have psychedelics. What has you committed to the idea that psychedelics can be phenomenal agents or catalysts for these processes of personal growth development, things like that?
0:10:19.0 AB: Yeah, that’s a very good question. So yeah, just on the background, or my background, Rebel Wisdom was a combination of a media platform and, really, a retreat organization and a community and a bunch of other things as well. So we grew to have about a quarter of a million subscribers on YouTube and also, sort of as importantly, a really great community of people and members. So we would offer a lot of different processes, inner growth processes, dialogue practices like circling, breathwork, bringing in lots of different facilitators as well as putting out really high quality content to try and help people make sense of… And also be in the process ourselves, myself and David Fuller, the other founder, be in the process of making sense of what on Earth is going on in culture right now or in the world.
0:11:14.3 AB: And we started in 2018, when it was Brexit and Trump all at the same time. And there was this huge shift in the landscape of what it means to be a progressive person, what it means to… The role of ideology in the modern world, the role of social media in polarizing us, so many hot topic issues. And what we were trying to do is bring some of the tools of personal growth, so presence, discernment, a sense of loving the truth and really trying to get into the process of speaking what is true, in the moment, beyond just my take on a topic. Really using, for example, embodiment practices to feel into, “Hey, when I talk about COVID vaccinations, where am I feeling in my body… What’s my reaction in my body rather than just whatever opinion I have? Can we get to a deeper level with each other?” And that was an ongoing experiment of talking about topics that are quite fiery and hard by using these personal growth practices.
0:12:27.0 AB: And actually, the way we started was through running men’s retreats. And so we also ran what became, yeah, I think one of the most respected men’s retreats in the world, New Masculinity Weekend. That was a really intense, very deep two-day process. And that’s really where… I always feel, and I think David feels the same way, that was in many ways like the heart of Rebel Wisdom in a sense of not because of the masculinity in particular, just in terms of that kind of work, that kind of process of really showing up, really speaking the truth as best we know it in the moment, going beyond just the intellect into something deeper than that. Ironically, a lot of our content on YouTube was very intellectual as well. It’s hard to do embodiment on YouTube. So we always had this kind of head and heart dynamic going on, yeah.
0:13:25.7 PA: And the head is more the interviews, the podcasts, like you said, the YouTube. And the heart, which I find is very similar, parallel in the work that we’re doing with Third Wave. The heart really is the retreats, the relational experiences together, the containers that are created. Which I think is a good segue then into what it is that you two have created with the Regenerative Stewardship retreat, and to start more from an intellectual and head place. And then we’ll, I think, slowly throughout the podcast, find our way deeper into the heart space as this opens up. Regenerative Stewardship, some people who hear that phrase, they’ll either think, “Wow, that sounds really cutting edge and incredible,” or, “Those are just two buzzwords. What the fuck does that actually mean?”
0:14:22.2 PA: I find myself somewhere in the middle at times. So I would love…
0:14:26.3 NP: Me too.
0:14:27.1 PA: Exactly. I would love some context on that. So Natasja, just to hand it over to you first. That phrase, regenerative stewardship, when you hear that, what comes up for you? What’s alive? What’s present for you with that phrase?
0:14:43.0 NP: Yeah, I’m also personally in the middle of it. And we’ve really sat for a long time with how do we name this? What is our why? So let’s just start with our why first because that’s how it informed the title. It’s not the other way around. And what we both had, and where we both resonated, Alexander and I, and of course he will speak for himself, but is that from all the work that you do in personal development and growth and therapy and counseling, and all the retreats and all the psychedelics, there is a stage in your development where you are going from self. You’re working on self. You’re working on that aspect of self. And you will come to a point where you will realize, through an embodiment, that the truth about harmony within is what am I contributing outwardly? How am I making meaning? How am I contributing to purpose that goes beyond the paycheck or the profit for the employer that I’m working for, or the business that I’m running? What am I contributing to the world? And I believe if we truly want to make a significant contribution, we have to realize that we each have a piece of the cake and the responsibility.
0:16:04.0 NP: So in that came the vision for myself like, okay, if I’m gonna be in contribution, and I’m going to be part of changing systems and influencing systems, and because our clientele for the past years have always been people in influential positions in a broader sense. And they, at the end of the day ask us, “Well, shall I sell my stocks, shares, or/and be a shaman in the woods? How do I do this? I work for a company, at a law firm, where being in the heart and sharing circle and taking three deep breaths is really foreign. How do I change that? So how do I change that outward system?” So that stewardship is really coming into place. Okay, I have the responsibility. I know the responsibility, and I can actually influence that. So it’s going beyond self to other, to community, to society, to the larger picture of their bigger picture. So that’s the…
0:17:08.7 NP: And then it’s about, okay, what is our legacy? What are we leaving behind? Why are we doing this? If we’re doing that for the bigger picture, if we’re doing that for community, if we’re understanding that a society that we’re living in needs a change, then we need to be regenerative. We need to make sure that we leave the legacy beyond ourselves. So it’s more out of the why. And what we both really didn’t want, and triggered by, was the word, an overused leadership word, self care, self love. [laughter] So these were the buzzwords we didn’t wanna use. But it is very important because it is about leadership. But it goes beyond the leadership, and maybe it’s even about reclaiming that word in some way, but bring in the stewardship of it and their self-responsibility. So…
0:18:02.9 PA: I love that.
0:18:03.2 NP: I think that’s… Yeah.
0:18:04.8 PA: I love that. I just… And I’ll take a couple of notes throughout. One thing that sticks out about that frame, Natasja, is really what you’re speaking to, in some ways, is living in this dualistic framework. When we have a psychedelic experience, when we have this emergence of, oftentimes, a soul or a mystical experience, it’s hard to come back into a job, particularly a job that we don’t like, or a relationship that isn’t really great for us. And so that balance, so to say, of how do we live in duality, and how do we continue to still show up, with an emphasis on contribution and change? And I think it also speaks, like you said towards the end there, in terms of that word, leader, the phrase “leadership” assumes that someone is out in front so oftentimes. That’s the connotation that we have. And so this concept of stewardship feels a lot more humble, in a way. And it also feels a lot more as kind of this phrase, “We are with you rather than above you.” And it feels like that’s a pretty central element of leadership, and what’s emerging is the listening aspect. How do we cultivate that skill and develop that skill to really truly listen not only to our partners or our colleagues, but also to the earth and to what’s emerging that is much, much greater than what we can name.
0:19:38.0 AB: Yeah. I really love that. And I think there’s… So there’s this… We have this concept of the sacred in the West about the sacred being. Something like, you know, kind of an experience that takes us beyond ourselves, but very often it’s interpreted as something that will take care of us. The sacred will take care of us and kind of nurture us, which of course, I think is true. But in the ancient world, and in Greece in particular, there was also this very important concept that we have to look after the sacred. And I came across that through the work of Peter Kingsley, who is worth checking out for anyone listening. And that really stuck with me. That stuck with me for probably the last two years. That concept. It was one of those things I read and it sort of stopped me in my tracks because it really seemed to tie into what Natasja was just talking about, which is a sense of, we can work at ourselves until the cows come home and we can optimize ourselves and we can get better at everything in our lives and be better, better in our relationships and more loving.
0:20:54.8 AB: And that’s a really, really important process. But I think there is a natural point at which being in service to, or actually being… Having the agency of actually taking care of something and stepping into a position of, that’s what stewardship is. It means we’re nurturing and looking after something. And I think that’s a really, a key aspect where it differs from this concept, a traditional concept of leadership where it’s like, “Well, I’m going to strive and penetrate the world and do something.” Now, it’s not to say that sometimes we don’t need to do that, but the kind of the… As we started developing this process and feeling into it, it became really clear, like Natasja said, that for both of us, that kind of process doesn’t feel right and isn’t where we’re kind of feeling aligned, but a process which is much more focused on, yeah, that sense of stewardship, which is simultaneously… Has agency in the world where we are really showing up in the world as us ourselves, as our unique expression, but we’re in service of something bigger than us.
0:21:58.8 AB: That for me is a very different paradigm to most of what we see really in the personal growth world and the spiritual worlds as well as just in wider society. So for me, that’s what regenerative stewardship means, and it’s regenerative because it’s really centered around not just growth, but regrowing something, kind of reconnecting to something that we may have lost in ourselves and socially.
0:22:27.7 PA: There’s this phrase which Ali you may be familiar with from some of the metamodernism listening society. It’s a phrase called the transvidual, which is, I think, apt here in terms of how do we both cultivate agency, the capacity to create in the external world, the capacity to feel in control of our existence, that we are the creator of our existence while simultaneously holding the truth of full surrender, that we aren’t in control, and that there’s something much greater than us that’s moving through. And what a lot of the wisdom traditions teach in particular Taoism, teaches, is that capacity to hold paradox and sort of walk the Middle Way. And I feel like when we start to get into these, let’s say, emerging leadership concepts, that feels very apt.
0:23:26.2 PA: Because in the past, let’s say past 300 to 400 years, a lot of the frame has been around a more, like you said, penetrating, masculine, build, build, build without any concept for externalities, without any sort of sense of, what are the second and third order consequences. And when we look at stewardship in particular, regenerative stewardship, we’re really asking, what is it that wants to move through me? What is it that the land wants? What is it that this community wants? And how can I certainly be an agent of transformation for that, but also recognize that it’s not at all about me and what I want? So…
0:24:09.7 NP: Absolutely. And just to add to that in terms of the phases that we… Is important to go into and something that has been overly done is this, the heroic journey, the hero’s journey. And I believe it’s time for us to call a different type of journey in. You know, it’s a very masculine way of looking into a process, which is, I think it had its time in its place somewhere, you know? Absolutely. And I believe there is an invitation where if we look at what is working in our society and what isn’t working in our society, it’s very clear that we can name the things that isn’t working. This is why the rise of this work, this is why we are doing the things that we’re doing, this is why we need so much learning and healing and the access.
0:25:06.7 NP: But the most important one, I believe is, if we ask ourselves what it is to be in, you know, from a traditional wisdom, tradition sense in right relationship to self, so what would it be to self, to right being, right? And if you are in right relationship to self, and one of the things that complex psychedelic space teaches is the connectedness, [chuckle] and how quickly we fall out of that connectedness is to me always unbelievable. It’s like, wow, you’re already out of it. [chuckle] It doesn’t matter how much integration, we’re out of it, duality is at play here, but it’s the right being is the first question we need to ask, right being to self, right being to the outer world, right being how am I taking that responsibility? And then the second question would be, what is your wise action?
0:25:58.4 NP: So even if, for example, we hold intention or we speak about intentions, or we speak about mantras or we speak about prayer, I always say, imagine you’re speaking to a lover. Speak in round words. And the same way, if we are coming in through right being into wise action, that’s creating a non-judgmental space. And that’s the basics of a deep transformative space. That’s a basic of a deep shamanic space is a non-judgmental space for all to be there. And then from there will be, okay, how is it to be in community? The willingness to be in a collaborative space, to be in a group, to see that we are part of something that is bigger, like we just shared. So I think just wanted to add that, you know, that I think what the invitation is for look at our journeys from a slightly different perspective, from a perspective where we’re coming in with ying yang simultaneously, masculine feminine qualities simultaneously, and they both need to be present in these spaces of changing systems and learning.
0:27:15.5 AB: Yeah. Just to add to that about the hero’s journey, during COVID, I put out a film and article about myth and how myth could help us navigate the times. And one of the people I interviewed for it was a writer called Charlotte Du Cann, and she talks about the female initiation myths. So we have the hero’s journey, which is a very masculine myth. And then she talks about how in a lot of female initiation myths, you have an inversion where actually someone starts as a princess and they go down through a process where they come back to the earth and they come back to a lived, embodied experience of being connected to the earth. And the word for humility comes from the same root as the Latin for Earth, as does human.
0:28:08.3 AB: So we have all of this hummus kind of humility, human, this process of becoming real and human again from somewhere that’s kind of detached. And then there’s that process, and then of course, there’s the masculine process of really going into the world as someone who is less aware and smaller, and then going through trials and tribulations and then coming back. But also in that myth, there’s a difference between being a hero and a king. And for example, if you think of Lord of the Rings, Aragorn starts out as a hero. He’s like, he’s a guy who’s a king, but he doesn’t wanna accept that he’s a king. And so he’s just like out being cool and badass in the wilderness. And he’s a hero, and it’s like, great, but that’s kind of an adolescent stage that you’re heroic.
0:29:00.4 AB: And in the kind of Joseph Campbell, kind of Jungian approach to myth, the warrior and the king, all these different archetypes are kind of different to the hero and a king, a good king or a queen, a good sovereign is able to listen, back to listening, actually, is able to listen to all of the different people in the kingdom, receive their wisdom, listen to the magician, listen to whoever else, and then make a decision all by themselves. So it’s, again, there’s a yin and yang in that. There’s the receptive listening, and then there’s, okay, but ultimately, and this is I think true of stewardship, and life in general, ultimately it comes down to you. You have to make a decision. You have to decide who you are with each choice that we make. And I think that is a… There’s something… Yeah, again, to go back to the etymology, something really human about that. And there’s something very un-spiritual-bypassing that I think is very important about that kind of process where it’s not, we’re gonna have a big peak experience that’s gonna take us out of having to deal with life and out of having to show up in the world because we’ve sorted it all out, and actually none of this is real, and it’s… We’re just gonna be able to detach.
0:30:12.4 AB: The kind of work and the kind of spirituality I’m interested in is much more one where we have both of those things. We have a sense of real rootedness in humanity and the nitty gritty of being alive and being in relationship and paying bills and having to make difficult decisions, and not being quite sure of where the right decisions… And also a deep connection to something way beyond us that kind of fills us with energy and kind of… And it’s those two kinds of experience and those two aspects of being, I think are really important to hold together. And so, yeah, I notice a lot of polarities are coming up even in this conversation. We have masculine, feminine, we have a myth, we have sort of the ground and the earth, yeah.
0:30:55.7 PA: So when we talk about the, again, the sort of evolution of growth, heroic, hero versus king, you know, one of my favorite philosophers/authors, regardless of how much of an asshole he is on Twitter is Nassim Taleb, and he talks a lot about how heroism is… It’s a virtue of youth, so to say. And for a youth to go through that process of becoming heroic, of reaching for greatness is actually a very healthy impetus to have. And yet there’s a process of maturity that often happens, as you said, where we grow out of that, that phase of feeling like we need to be a hero into that king space. And what’s coming up for me, even in the framing of this context, and I think it’s helpful for… When talking about regenerative stewardship, is just to use the example, let’s say, of someone like Elon Musk.
0:31:51.0 PA: Elon Musk, I think, is a good representation of someone who is doing his best to be a hero, making our planet and species interstellar, electric cars. And he’s doing a phenomenal job, I think, of innovating in such a way that’s really helping to lead this regenerative movement. At the same time, I think his perspective is sort of representative of where we are at as a culture right now, which is because so few men have really gone through, let’s say, proper rites of passage, they’ve really gone through… They haven’t really gone through that process of seeing beyond the individual ego, the most innovative things we can think of are to go to Mars. In other words, we’re not really focusing time, energy, and attention on this incredible planet that we already have, and really asking these difficult questions about how do we actually solve for taking care of this planet?
0:32:45.1 PA: And it feels like that’s much more of a king energy, so to say, to really be objective and honest about, this is the situation that we’re in. There’s a lot of noise about it, and what’s the signal of what’s actually gonna change the needle? And that, I think, comes into psychedelics, and what psychedelics could potentially offer, not that they’re a silver bullet or a panacea necessarily. And that’s sort of the next opening that I wanna create for this conversation is, what is that overlap between psychedelics, indigenous wisdom and the need for these new, let’s say, models or paradigms of leadership to really root in very ancient ways of being with the earth and with our communities.
0:33:32.7 NP: Yes. So I’m… [chuckle] we’re just looking who’s going first.
0:33:36.2 PA: Flies, okay.
0:33:38.2 NP: Flies and looking who’s going first. [chuckle] We have flies being present.
0:33:44.6 PA: Yeah.
0:33:46.1 NP: In this podcast episode, they taught me about patience.
0:33:48.4 PA: Sponsored by the flies. Yeah. Yeah.
0:33:51.5 NP: I think this is a really beautiful question, and I don’t know if I have the answer to it, you know? Because I think it’s something that you could dedicate probably multiple episodes with multiple perspectives on it. But one thing that I do know is we miss a sense of sacredness to be able to understand metaphor. You know, if it’s one… One thing that I’ve learned out of the psychedelic space is the metaphors, the rituals. The ritual is a set of metaphors that say, this is what we are doing, [chuckle] this is our intention, this is where we’re going with it. And we have become this autopilot of production, you know? And to be able to understand that our deepest craving is to be in connection around a circle, that is in whatever shape or form, I mean, even watching a movie with your family members is a process that we like. Why?
0:34:53.9 NP: Because through the empathy of the emotion that we’re watching, we’re allowing ourselves to feel that emotion, right? So… Or with a theater or with play. So, the same goes with the container that is created with the right set and setting and container, and holding that in a sacred way. Most importantly, we have to understand that sacredness can mean something for everybody in a different way, right? But there needs to be a threshold of a before and after. And there needs to be a slowing down. There needs to be a sense of, I’m surrendering, I am letting… All that is arising, I’m going to be the observer. I’m going to become self-aware of what is there, because this is also something that is lacking. So a lot of… Within that sacredness and within that container, this is what we create.
0:35:49.7 NP: And then when we bridge it to traditions, there are so many different traditions. But one thing that is really important, and I think especially now, of appropriation and being very mindful and working with different traditions and neo shamanism, which I called myself for many, many years, is something that is very important. It’s not about appropriating, it’s about our birthright to connect to the earth and its elements and elementals. It’s our birthright to be connected around the fire with fire. It’s the word how we maybe use the ritual without acknowledging and without its teachers and trainers that we have to understand how to hold that. And then there is another… Another aspect is there is an actual cosmology that is taught from different traditions to hold a trans-state with a group for the purpose of healing, for most.
0:36:48.1 NP: For some of them, it’s the purpose of spirituality to connect to something that is bigger, the divine, or God, or whatever name, the great mystery even. So there’s this different containers, different cosmology for different set and settings and different intentions. There are different traditions using it in different ways. I believe what we are invited to do at this moment, and especially with psilocybin, psilocybin is such a generous medicine, is such a generous psychedelic substance, it’s really inviting us to be able to create, let’s say, a new format, a new sacred cosmology that represents the human of today. So this is what we are doing at the same time. I mean, Alexander and I have this vision, have this impulse, have… I personally feel guided by something bigger than myself into this program, but I also feel that there is a very big responsibility that I’m also an elder for the future, right?
0:37:52.1 NP: So what are we creating right now? I think it’s a contribution of creating a sacred container. And I hope that in the next 20 years we’ll have on Sunday afternoon little communities doing creative doses together around the fire, and they’re holding their own process. That would be a beautiful setting to have. So it’s not only in therapeutic work or with an intentional protocol that we’ve created, but that it’s also really open and recreational, right? So this is also a bridge making into it. And then coming, I think, the last thing about leadership, I think it bridges in into this, is the more we are becoming aware and the more we can actually go towards self-actualization, because our basic needs are met, we become aware that we are leaders and we can create these type of containers in our communities, right? Only medicalizing this is, I believe, the opposite of what this medicine is actually asking us to do indirectly, you know? And sometimes maybe directly in your journey, I don’t know. [chuckle] I can only assume.
0:39:02.0 NP: But this is where I feel that there is something bigger here at play in terms of how specifically truffles containing psilocybin or mushrooms containing psilocybin are generative in a way that it’s inviting us to look, okay, here, what cosmology are we creating? What are we as elders and our legacy in that? So I don’t know. This does not fully answer your question, Paul. This is the seed that came up for me and maybe Alexander would like to add more to that.
0:39:39.2 AB: Yeah, yeah. I would love to. And just to echo something you said when you started speaking, this is a huge topic, how can psychedelics basically… And how can psychedelics help us kind of navigate the world and where does indigenous wisdom come into that as well? There’s a word you’ve used a few times, Paul, emergence. And I think that that’s a really useful concept to look at to start answering a small part of that question ’cause it’s a really big one. But emergence is something that happens in complex systems. And basically what it is is that when you have a system in which many different parts are interacting with each other like an ant colony, but they’re also interacting with this in open systems, they’re also interacting with everything else on the savanna and they’re completely kind of in flow with everything around them, that system starts to create something that’s more than the sum of its parts. And so the actual process of the different ants interacting with each other creates an intelligence which is this ant colony, which is huge, any individual ant in that colony doesn’t really have the intelligence or agency to make a decision or to be a leader, right?
0:41:08.8 AB: So basically compare that to like a grandfather clock, which is a complicated system, right? Super complicated, loads of gears and stuff. But actually, if there’s something wrong with the grandfather clock, you go in there and you fix it and it’s done, right? So a lot of the problems that we face in life and more collectively are complex problems. They’re not complicated, but a lot of our solutions are the kind of solution that we have to a complicated problem. So we are looking at our own relationships, we’re looking at what’s going on in our organizations or in our communities, in our networks, very often with a mindset because it’s what we’re educated in of, oh, this is a problem that needs to be solved. And it might be, but it’s the wrong kind of problem because actually it’s a problem that’s changing as you’re trying to solve it because that’s what a complex system is. It’s constantly dynamic, shifting. So in order to really do that, you need a different way of being in the world. You need to be dancing with reality and you need to be completely in flow with it. Now that’s one thing that psychedelics are incredibly good at helping us to do.
0:42:16.1 AB: When we’re in a psychedelic experience, we’re in a state of… We’re in a back and forth with what’s going on with their setting, with our inner world, with the people around us. And it’s the only way to really navigate a psychedelic experience well in my view is to flow with it, is to dance with it, is to say yes and to listen to what the medicine is saying and then also make our own decisions and wrestle with stuff. It’s a wrestle, it’s a dance. So that’s one way where psychedelics are such an incredible gift. Another way is that they actually give us a lived experience of what it is to be part of a complex system. And this is where it links back to indigenous wisdom. And anyone who’s interested in a much better view of this than I can give, it’s worth checking out the work of Tyson Yunkaporta who wrote Sand Talk. And he talks about in particular Australian Aboriginal culture as having a real very complex cosmology that understands complex systems. And it does so through observing what is going on. Why is a river moving like that? Why does a tree interact with… You know, it’s all everything is basically interacting, speaking to everything else, if you wanna use that terminology.
0:43:33.5 AB: And many indigenous solar systems have a recognition of a living, breathing world that’s responding to us and we’re responding to it. That is not the world that we’re taught about in the West because our world is one in which there is no life in nature. It’s dead matter. And by extension, we are dead matter. And our consciousness is a fluke. And none of us are real. And so of course, why not just consume blindly and make the most of it until we burn away? That I think is not just a wrong view of the world, but I think it’s completely toxic. And a lot of leadership models based in that view of the world are also toxic. And so that’s, again, comes back to something like regenerative stewardship as a concept. It’s much more about a way of showing up in a world that is showing up to us and we’re moving with it rather than trying to tell it what to do.
0:44:28.7 PA: So there’s a sense of presence with the emergence and not necessarily a projected expectation about how this is how it should be. Rather, we’re observing, we’re being with it, we’re allowing it. And again, what I continue to come back to as a term is like we’re listening to it. And that’s often for me, it’s always been the biggest lesson with psychedelics has been the capacity for listening to transform my relationship with everything. And I know it’s not as common. You both are across the pond. Ali, I think you’re in London and Natasja is in the Netherlands. So listening is more of a thing in many European cultures. In American culture, there is this really annoying sort of White man’s egotistical drive that everyone has adapted to about just talking, talking, talking, talking. And there is a sense of in that capacity to fully step back and really listen. Like you said, we realize that consciousness is in everything, that we don’t live in a dead sort of world where there is no meaning, but that instead meaning is imbued into absolutely everything around us. It’s just our capacity to sort of take off the blinders, if you will, and really observe things for what they are. Natasja, did you have anything to add to just what Ali mentioned?
0:46:00.3 NP: Yeah, well, actually to what you mentioned about deep listening, because I think that’s in the end, where we are really learning. We’re speaking a lot about healing in terms of psychedelic and plant medicines. And in its core, I think it’s about learning and learning to deeply listen. So even in the program itself, I mean, we’re speaking here and we’re making a lot of suggestions and we’re looking at things in different viewpoints. But I think it’s also really important to understand that the container that we do hold, we deeply listened to what it is that the individual needs. We are not priming you with some leadership tools. “And here you go. Now here is a high dose of truffles with psilocybin and you go work on this protocol.” [laughter] That’s not it. That’s not how we envision it. So the deep listening is also in the relational space between our facilitation and the individual and then the group coherence, the group consciousness that is at play. And where is everybody at, at the level that they’re at? And that’s where we try to meet people. And we share stories and we bring invitations and of course, there is a specific type of quality that we bring forth, a type of essence that is felt that we can’t say in words. Of course that is going to be there because we are committed and we bring in an intention.
0:47:34.9 NP: But I think everything comes down to deep listening into that space. It is in a protocolized system again. That’s really important to name.
0:47:45.6 PA: Yeah. Formulas are dead on arrival. That’s been kind of my frame, right? Where everything is an emergent living thing. Let’s be with that rather than try to box it or put a formula into it or create a protocol for it. The Western mind is very conditioned to want certainty. And oftentimes what psychedelics teach us is, life is way more uncertain and the ability to dance with that uncertainty is actually what defines us as living creatures. So I have a bit of a tactical question regarding the retreat, and Natasja, you’ve facilitated a lot in the past five years, like a lot of experiences, maybe even six to seven years. You’ve done both 5-MeO-DMT and psilocybin. There could be other medicines that you’ve worked with as well. And so this is a bit of a two-part question. First of all, why psilocybin compared to something like 5-MeO-DMT for this retreat model when it comes to regenerative stewardship? And secondly, if all of these medicines were currently legal everywhere and you could choose from ayahuasca or huachuma or MDMA or 2C-P or… I don’t know, any other medicine, would you still choose psilocybin as ideal for this sort of leadership experiential model or would there be another substance that may be ideal for your intention and what it is that you’re creating?
0:49:27.9 NP: I love that question. Never been asked before. Well, my straight answer would be, I would still… I would personally, I don’t know about Alexander, but I would still choose psilocybin actually. And I will keep it very simple not to go too much into 5-MeO and that journey, but just simply put is, 5-MeO picks your consciousness up and drops it in the soup of big consciousness. Okay? psilocybin creates bridges into the consciousness, into the big consciousness with story and relating and somatic and color and vision and aha and emotion and all of the senses that we can experience. Because of that process, the unfolding and the aha in the moment itself, it’s, let’s say, like clay, you can work more with it in the moment. 5-MeO is very clearly a very quick experience which you work with in the three, six months to a year on yourself, you start to realize insight, et cetera. So to work with this intention and this specific commitment that we’re bringing in, psilocybin is more generative, is more flexible, is more playful too. We have to bring in the qualities of psilocybin, there is a playful… It will poke you and your shadow at the same time, crack a joke about it. [chuckle]
0:51:10.4 NP: And so for a lot of people that are also curious about… Because the majority… Half of the people that are actually now enrolling to this program are first timers as well. And I really don’t believe… I think 5-MeO you need to be called really to do, like any of the medicines. But I think for a first timer and also with this type of program, the type of people that feel attracted to it, it fits really well the combination of the work. And then speaking about other medicines, well, when it comes to, for example, ayahuasca, I’m pretty strict personally on that. I think you should be trained with… Traditionally for a minimum of 10 years with that medicine. So I would never serve that unless I have invited to go for 10 years and do a shitload of the dietas and have a really good teacher, which we work also a lot with people that have done all of that and their medicine isn’t, let’s say, let’s name it crooked. So we’ve helped people actually unplug from a lot of those teachings too. So I’ve seen the shadow aspect of that work as much as anything else.
0:52:25.9 NP: So I personally don’t feel drawn to work with anything else. I think… Sometimes I question myself, shouldn’t I dedicate myself to one medicine? That’s already enough for a lifetime. But this is what happened in my life. This is how I started integrating 5-MeO with truffles in the Netherlands. So the truffles helped me understand what was happening in my 5-MeO experience. So this is why both were so complimentary in my life. But that’s my personal story about that. Yeah.
0:53:02.3 AB: Yeah. I also have a strong clarity that I would use psilocybin regardless of what else was available. And that’s also in part, like Natasja just said, it’s a personal story. But I think that’s very important because for me personally, it’s the medicine that I’m closest to in terms of a student-teacher relationship. It’s always for me been a real… That has been the key plant medicine, if you wanna call it that. Although fungi isn’t really a plant. [chuckle] It’s been the key kind of spiritual relationship in my life actually, would be, I would say between me and the wisdom of psilocybin. It’s also what I know how to work with rather than, like Natasja said, that I would never work with ayahuasca. I’m not trained to do that. I wouldn’t work with MDMA even though I have experienced MDMA myself many times. That’s a very different way of working and people have experience of doing that. One exception may be LSD where I think it could potentially… It would be long.
0:54:09.7 AB: It would be a very different type of process and container and possibly we might want to… Yeah, it would be different I think. I would probably wanna go outside at some point as well. So that’s the one exception I would say. In some ways, both of those medicines are indigenous to Europe where I’m from. I suppose LSD is indigenous to Switzerland and of course belongs to everyone. [laughter] psilocybin grows here and can be picked and that’s something that I’ve done. And so I feel that kind of connection to it. Not that that connection must by all accounts be there for someone to work with a medicine, but I think at least it really does matter. It really does matter that that connection is there and that reverence is there. With that reverence and with that personal experience with a medicine comes an understanding of the way that it teaches and that is really crucial for the way that we hold a container.
0:55:15.6 PA: LSD, let’s say a more moderate dose level, 50 to 100 to maybe even 150 mikes would probably be very good for creativity, problem solving, new ideas. It feels like the intention of this retreat and this experience is much deeper and more profound than that necessarily. And so it’s a different lens on leadership. As we’ve talked about throughout the conversation today, bringing people much more into a deep embodied experience of emergence and of cooperation and of inter-being and then using that almost frame, that experience as a launching pad, for lack of a better term, for the shifts that will inevitably come after the experience.
0:56:09.3 PA: And I think that to me is a great, let’s say, final question to land this is in terms of the flow, Natasja, we were involved in a retreat together for some time. You host your own retreats. There’s a pretty standard prep experience integration and that pretty standard prep experience integration, it’s typically oriented for, at least with the retreats that we did, they were more like wellness retreats. They didn’t have necessarily the specific lens of leadership. So I’d love if you could just talk a little bit… And Ali, maybe I’ll go to you just first and then Natasja can kind of land after you, how do you think about prep experience integration as it relates to this retreat, as it relates to leadership, as it relates to regenerative stewardship? So to say. Just even for those who are listening at home and who are thinking about these new models of leadership who are maybe just gonna work with medicine themselves, how might they approach that frame to prepare for an experience to have it themselves and then to integrate afterwards within this context of embodiment of stewardship, of listening, these sorts of things?
0:57:30.9 AB: Yeah, that’s a good question. So, I don’t wanna lay out a sort of a protocol for people to do at home, but I will talk about the general kind of ethos of it. And the first thing I would say is that these different aspects, preparation, actually being in the space and then being in the ceremony and then integrating afterwards, they’re all one thing that’s connected with itself, right? So I think that’s a good way to think about it. It’s all one process. And I think the word process is also really, really important because process implies a kind of journey and growth and a constant change and a constant unfolding that just doesn’t really ever end in some sense. We can have closure over a particular aspect of things, but it’s also nonlinear. For example, I’ve had experiences, psychedelic experiences which I integrated, so to speak, a year and a half later sitting on a couch and just being like, “Ah, oh my God.” It wasn’t that I was necessarily working intensely on that particular issue for a whole year and a half. It was just like maybe in the back of my mind, what did this mean when this happened in that experience? And like, every now and again, it would be kind of gnawing at me and I’d kind of wrestle. A lot of the process in my view of good psychedelic integration is patience and also deep listening we’ve talked about and being okay with not quite knowing and wrestling.
0:59:07.7 AB: So, just sequentially, preparation can involve many different things, but I think something we’re really keen on is a couple of different elements, which is, one is embodiment. One is learning how to come into a lived experience of our bodies because there’s many reasons for that. One reason is because it’s a very firm anchor into the present moment. It’s also a way we can regulate ourselves and come into ourselves, regulate our nervous systems, know ourselves. Also during an experience, it’s a really important way of checking in with, okay, what’s going on? Because what’s going on isn’t just the mental content, it’s also the somatic, so the body experience of what’s going on. And very often we’re not trained to do both of those things at the same time and to kind of feel fully… Very often we’re moving away from feeling our emotions. We’re numbing out, we’re trying to bypass it with lofty ideas. And one thing that psilocybin does often is bring us straight into the feeling and that means going straight into the body. And so getting used to that in preparation I think is really, really important. And then also some basics of how, do we navigate an altered state?
1:00:20.8 AB: And that is really a way of being that we start to learn like a muscle rather than something we necessarily do. It’s about a kind of mental flexibility, a kind of humor, a kind of awareness that everything is constantly in process and changing, and that might be really heightened during a psychedelic experience. And then one aspect of integration, which is a very big topic, which incidentally no one has really defined what integration is in any of the academic literature, so we’re using a word, all of us, that we’re kind of defining as we go along. The one thing is not immediately jumping to making meaning right after the experience, which is what our minds want to do and it’s okay that they wanna do that. But actually getting into a different kind of knowing, which again comes into the body, again comes into being able to slow down, being able to listen, that’s really, really important because we are effectively breaking our frame on reality and our frame on the world and then making a new frame when we have a big experience. And we need to be very careful as we make the new frame that’s usually wider and more inclusive and we see more of reality, ideally, that we are very careful and cautious and discerning as we do that.
1:01:37.3 AB: And so that’s a big, for me, a major part of integration. There’s many, many, many more, but I’m going to pass over to Natasja.
1:01:45.5 NP: Yes. And from a practical perspective, everything we offer, because we do three preparation calls and three integration calls after a five-day experience, and from a practical sense, creating a container that feels safe and that you can trust and drop into self and each other is with practicality. So everything we’re sharing here, we’re very aware that working in a trauma-informed way and working with the nervous system is bringing… Saying, “Okay, here’s the exit. This is what you do here.” Like bringing also these practical, simple elements and creating connections. So we’re very much in the preparatory phase and relating, connecting, structure, these are the basics of the foundation. And then we’re going to invite our group to immediately dive deep. We’ve switched around a lot of the formats that have now been copied from the container we created, Paul. We’ve switched that whole format. We’ve switched it completely around because we want to also be in innovation. We don’t wanna stick with something, oh, this is the format that worked. We are already in a very different place. So we’re immediately going to dive deep. And then psilocybin is one of the main, let’s say, medicines, but we’re also working with flower essence.
1:03:13.9 NP: We’re working with cacao, but all from a slightly different perspective than what most people think when they hear that. You know, when I say cacao ceremony, most people think we’re gonna go and sing Kumbaya around the flower mandala, but we’re actually going to do and learn a lot about are the archetypes within what is imbalanced, what is out of balance, how to create balance. You know, we’re going to use a lot of the formats also that Alexander and the rest of the team, because it’s not only myself and Alexander, we have an amazing team of very highly skilled executive trainers, change makers and coaches that have a decade of experience in the plant medicine psychedelic space who are bridging both worlds. Because if we’re speaking into this, we have to have embodied understanding of what we’re speaking into, right? And it’s not only Natasja and Alexander, it’s a whole team. It’s the fullness of everything we’re bringing in. And then we’re really emphasizing halfway the five days on starting already a form of integration. And then again, what Alexander said, not about meaning making, but how can we go from adolescent self into adult self, right?
1:04:32.6 NP: And what does that mean? What does that ownership mean? What does that responsibility mean? What does it mean to step out of victim aggressor role? What does it mean to be indeed the leader that you want to be in your life? And it’s not for your paycheck, it’s for your life. You know, it’s maybe for your family. It’s for what you’re contributing into your household, into your community. So those aspects, we’re also bringing in a lot of those kind of inquiries, what it means to each and every one. And the craft of space holding is about deep listening and understanding how to weave in the right way. And I feel this is the, let’s say, the sacred feminine at play with the sacred masculine at play, right? Where both come in, where we’re weaving together in the container, okay, what is present and what are we inviting in? And then it will grow out of itself. It’s also we planting seeds, but we need to be in a place of non-attachment really to be able for individuals to grow into that aha moment. And we are there as observers and witness to say it is so, right?
1:05:44.4 NP: In this space, and then the integration process is indeed… It’s very… I’ve tried a hundred times making protocols for integration and every time I think I got it, every group teaches me that I have no idea again. [laughter] I’ve tried to actually make an integration program for, you know, for people, easy access, low costs, just get it out there for so many people as possible. But every group that I’m holding, I’m realizing that one group has one theme and another group has another theme. So again, flexibility in that is needed and really much needed in terms of you need to monitor what do people need? You know, is there extra support that is needed? Is there extra counseling or coaching or you need to direct people in a certain space, but for one person more meditation is not really what they need. Really, you know, they need actually maybe change their diet, so we need to stay open in that aspect. So that’s more or less the journey in terms of… From beginning to end, but we have switched it around from the formats that are now alive, that I can say, we have switched it completely around in terms of when you do what in the process and I’m pretty psyched about it actually.
1:07:05.0 AB: Yeah, likewise.
1:07:11.9 PA: Beautiful. Well, as a time check, Ali, I know you got to pop and get going. So I want to thank both of you for coming on today. We could probably talk for another hour, if not two, if not three. There’s a lot here to unpack, to go through. And it’s always a pleasure, Natasja, to be able to do this with you and Ali. You know, it was great to have you on and to go through all of this. So Natasja, just in terms of final details, you know, people want to learn more about this experience and this retreat. If they are interested potentially in attending one of the retreats, just, you know, kind of where do we point them, where can they find more information?
1:07:56.5 NP: Yeah. So our website is Awaken The Medicine Within, but if you want to go directly to the landing page it’s stewardship.awakenthemedicinewithin.com. So that’s where you can find us. So our first retreat with this program is completely sold out, fully booked. So our next one would be in March 2023. And we’re launching this in the Netherlands. We’re starting with a maximum of 12 participants to really be able to cater to individuals. And on the website it says everything. There is an enrollment process. We actually do in-person calls. So it’s nothing automated. We have a conversation with everybody one-to-one for questions and answers and all of that in between.
1:08:46.4 PA: Beautiful. Well, we will post all of those in the show links. If you want to find out more about the experience and the retreat, you can do so there. Again, just as a final thank you, I know it’s late in Europe, so I appreciate both of you taking the time to come on today and talk about regenerative stewardship and emerging models of leadership and listening and liminality. And there’s a ton that we went through. So this was super rich and nourishing.
1:09:13.6 NP: Thank you, Paul. Really super grateful.
1:09:16.9 AB: Thanks, Paul. Thanks for having us. It’s a real pleasure.
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