How to Lay A Solid Foundation for Your Psychedelic & Sacred Plant Medicine Integration
This integration article is part of a series on plant medicine integration. View Comprehensive Guide to Psychedelic and Plant Medicine Integration to view related articles on the topic.
In this introductory guide to psychedelic and plant medicine integration, I refer to the following suggestions as “laying a solid foundation” because all of the other tools for growth and transformation that I discuss in my other articles on psychedelic integration build upon this foundation.
Don’t view them as “basic,” but instead as fundamental.
For visionaries, entrepreneurs, and change-makers consciously working with psychedelics and sacred plant medicines as effective visionary tools to enhance your capacity to create with a purpose, the stronger the foundation, the stronger your base to build, vision and create upon.
The following recommendations allow you to create a robust structural framework so you can most effectively leverage the window of mental flexibility that follows a psychedelic experience and help you reap the incredible benefits of neuroplasticity.
They can help you more effectively anchor the wisdom you receive from our psychedelic and plant medicine allies into your everyday life, and gracefully traverse the landscape of growth and transformation, allowing new insights to unfold and creativity to flourish.
Whether you are a seasoned visionary psychonaut, newly initiated to the psychedelic path, or are about to embark on your first journey of exploring altered states of consciousness, these suggestions for psychedelic integration offer sound and beneficial advice.
Creating Space For Your Post-Psychedelic Experience
When you drink ayahuasca, embark on a significant LSD or psilocybin trip, or a profound 5-MeO-DMT journey without taking the necessary time afterward to integrate your experience, you risk losing the real gems that the experience has to offer you.
When you have a major mind-altering journey and experience a drastic shift of perception or complete ego-dissolution, it requires time for the dust to settle so-to-speak. It takes time to integrate this new perception and understanding of yourself and the world around you into your current framework of reality.
If you don’t allow yourself this time and space for integration, you’re missing the purpose, and the essence of what working with psychedelics and plant medicines is all about. Because whatever the intention you showed up with, whatever your growth edge is, or flavor of transformation—be it trauma, addiction, or depression—whatever the healing you’re seeking in ceremony, it has an underlying root that needs addressing.
Often this underlying root has been buried or cast aside, just outside your conscious awareness. It not only takes dedication and willingness to uncover what’s been there all along, lingering in the shadows of your consciousness; it requires spaciousness and stillness.
Jumping right back into life-long habitual routines just keeps activating those same old automatic programs. It prevents you from slowing down enough to expand your field of perceptual awareness and tune into subtle energies that were previously easy to miss.
Committing to the simple act of taking the necessary time and space to process your psychedelic or plant medicine experience before jumping back into your “old life” can allow you to make new choices and help you consciously change your personal narrative. During this time, you can engage in the internal process of re-writing the story of your self-identity, and deliberately choose the new habits that make up that identity.
Whether you are going to an ayahuasca retreat, embarking on a psilocybin journey with a trained psychotherapist, or planning a safe psychedelic journey in the comfort of your own home, scheduling time post-trip to integrate your experience will prove to be crucial.
This requires planning ahead.
Ideally, your psychedelic integration process begins before you even embark on the journey, so you can adequately prepare yourself for when you return home.
This integration tip is simple, and yet for many of us leading busy lives, creating enough space for ourselves to land can be easier said than done, and is often overlooked, even by seasoned psychedelic practitioners.
I encourage you not to minimize the importance of this; the rest of your integration process relies on the simplicity of creating enough space for yourself after your journey.
Here are a few tips to help you carve out the spaciousness you need after your psychedelic journey:
- Clear your schedule. Get logistical about it. Plan ahead. Before you schedule the retreat, the weekend, or the single journey, make sure your schedule is freed-up post-trip.
- How much time should you schedule post-psychedelic trip? How much time you choose to take depends on a few factors. If you’re going to embark on one single psychedelic trip, depending on the size of the dose and level of experience, then anywhere from 1 to 4 days post-experience might be most ideal for you. If you’re going to do a 10-day retreat with five ayahuasca ceremonies—especially if it’s your first time working with this medicine—schedule as much time post-retreat as you can manage, ideally no less than one week if you really want to reap the benefits.
- Don’t over-commit or over-book yourself: Try not to schedule any important meetings for at least 5-6 days post-psychedelic trip, just in case you need a little more time than you initially anticipated.
Consider Comfort and Convenience
- Comfort: Make sure you have a comfortable space to be in post-journey. If you’re traveling out of the country for an ayahuasca retreat, for example, then consider splurging a little bit extra and rent a nice Airbnb or hotel room for a few days before traveling home to rest before another journey ahead.
- Safe and quiet: Considering that you ideally want to rest as much as possible, make sure the space you’re returning to feels safe, comfortable, supportive, and is quiet so you can sleep, find stillness, rest, and rejuvenate.
- Consider convenience: If you really want to go all out, book yourself into a health-spa or health retreat. Having someone else make you healthy food frees up your energy to focus on your inner reality. You can book a place where you can conveniently attend yoga and meditation classes, and even receive a massage or somatic bodywork therapy.
Consider A Change of Scene
Familiar environments play a huge role in triggering old behavioral patterns. If you just embarked on a long retreat with multiple ceremonies, and looking to kick some pretty addictive patterns, you may want to consider landing somewhere other than your home to rest post-experience. This allows you to focus on your integration process before stepping back into your old environment, with all of its associated triggers. This gives you more time to interrupt old patterns, which can contribute to establishing new, healthier routines upon your return.
Others may prefer to return to the comfort of their own bed and find solace in the familiarity of their home environment. Depending on what your underlying intentions for healing and unique needs are, do whatever feels most aligned for you.
Once you’ve cleared your schedule, have a comfortable and safe space to rest in, here are some recommendations to support your integration process immediately after your psychedelic trip.
Slow Down: Leaning Into the Sacred Pause
Slowing down and doing less can be easier said than done. Many of us have been spinning our wheels for so long we’ve become habituated to chronic busyness. Even the process of giving yourself permission to slow down, do less, and carve out more time for stillness can be an incredibly healing process full of transformational insights.
If you’re still going, going, going, in the days post-psychedelic trip, you’re more likely to glaze over and miss the gems that were not only offered to you during your journey, but that continue to surface in the days and weeks following your experience.
Chronic doing is a distraction from listening to your inherent wisdom and mindfully paying attention to your inner and outer reality. Yes, of course, there are always things that need to be done, and not everyone has the privilege of spaciousness. But everyone can slow down and choose to move with more mindfulness and intention, taking more deep breaths and more frequent moments to pause.
Slowing down allows you to widen the gap between the stimulus and response of knee-jerk reactions and gives you the space to start recognizing the hidden, autopilot programs that you have been running on.
Slowing down is an essential component in choosing new thoughts, new words, and new behaviors that align with your heart-felt intentions, and the inner vision you are holding for your life.
Be Mindful of Communication And How Much Time You Spend With People
Spending time with people you love after your journey can be a valuable and healthy part of your plant medicine integration. But spending too much time speaking with other people focuses your attention and energy outward, rather than inward, and can become a distraction from doing your inner work.
Use discernment when it comes to who and how much time you spend with people right after your psychedelic experience, making sure to not overextend yourself but rather prioritize your inward process.
It’s best to spend time with people who you feel confident will lovingly support you, regardless of what you express about your experience while avoiding people who may be overly judgmental of you during this time of transition.
This is different than spending time with people who hold a different opinion than you, but still love and support you and the choices you make. Even if people do have strong opinions about your choices, you can always choose to listen without getting triggered or without taking it personally, and respond with gentleness and loving-kindness, speaking about what’s true for you. When it comes to family and loved ones, strong opinions and reactions often come from love and have more to do with them, than they do with you.
It’s great to have the support of loved ones who also have experience with psychedelics, but not everyone has these people in their lives. If you want to process your experience with someone who might “get it,” consider speaking with the person who led the journey, other people who participated in the circle, or a psychedelic or plant medicine integration coach.
Pets Over People?
Sometimes pets can be more appropriate companions than people when you’re focusing your energy on you.
Spending time with your furry friends and other beloved pets can also be such good therapy, and an excellent way to nourish the spirit, post-psychedelic trip. You might be surprised by how these companions can bring much healing and of comfort into your integration process.
Process Before You Share
Sharing your psychedelic experience can be really vulnerable. If you share about your experience while you’re still processing it, you might not get the reactions that would be the most supportive of your integration process. Use the time after your experience to find stillness and engage in the other recommended integration tips to nourish your body, mind, and spirit.
Skip Posting on Social Media
Hold off on posting publicly about the details of your experience for at least a week, if at all. It’s really common to want to share your psychedelic trip with the world. Trust me, I get it, but I would pause on that for a least a week until you have time to make more sense of your journey.
The fact that you chose to embark on this journey might be surprisingly triggering for some people in your life. You might not want to open yourself up to these kinds of critical reactions and feedback just yet, if ever.
Side Note: Use Discretion
When sharing your experience with anyone, keep in mind that psychedelics and plant medicines are still illegal in many parts of the world, including the US. Keep the names of the people who participated, and the facilitators who led the journey confidential to protect their personal lives. Avoid getting specific about time and place, especially if sharing your experience publicly, to avoid legal ramifications for yourself or others.
Avoid Big Decisions At This Time
Of all the integration tips, this suggestion ranks high on the list in terms of importance. Try not to make any significant life-altering decisions after your psychedelic trip. It’s unnecessary and most likely not helpful.
You don’t need to decide that week to uproot your home base and relocate, quit your job or leave your spouse. These are all big decisions that you may come to regret if you don’t take ample space and time just to pause and rest. Sleep is the best ally for making sound decisions that support your best interests.
Sometimes we can get some pretty lofty ideas during our psychedelic trips, and it’s not always easy to know which visions to follow through and act on. You can always start exploring new creative outlets without investing your entire life savings into it.
If after two or three weeks, you still feel strongly inspired to follow through on whatever stirred within you, start taking it seriously. Bounce it off of a friend you trust who will always give you honest feedback. Use your intuition and listen to your gut.
Watch Out for Impulsivity
One interesting side effect of working with psychedelics, especially with a weekly microdosing practice, is that it can lead to more impulsive behavior. This can be a double-edged sword, both a positive quality and a drawback, especially for the entrepreneurial-minded.
Sometimes we need to be somewhat impulsive and even mildly delusional to get a significant vision off the ground. Impulsivity may be useful for an entrepreneur who needs to pull the trigger and take the leap, but may not allow for the bigger picture perspective of thinking things through.
Aside from business projects, investing in the stock market, or committing to a private loan, for example, be mindful of over-spending or impulsive purchase decisions (especially non-refundable ones) in the weeks following a major psychedelic trip. Integration is a time for stillness, not for shopping.
Avoid Mind-Altering Substances
Because your psyche is already more sensitive than usual after a big psychedelic journey, consider avoiding all other mind-altering substances for at least one week. This is an excellent time to keep your mental space as clear as possible, so you do not have to process other altered states of consciousness on top of the last one you just experienced.
This includes refraining from alcohol and marijuana. Many people in the plant medicine communities have also become habituated towards chronic daily use of kratom and hapé, outside of any kind of ceremonial context. Consider giving these, as well as other addictive stimulants like nicotine and caffeine, a rest as well.
How can you take extra good care of yourself in the weeks following your psychedelic experience? What could you do for yourself that you don’t usually do that feels a little extra special? What about taking hot baths with essential oils when you wake up in the morning or the early afternoon? Or booking a bodywork session, or scheduling a relaxation massage?
Acupuncture, sound healing or sound journeys, and the different forms of energy work can also be effective healing modalities to complement your integration process.
Even just giving yourself permission to read a good book curled up on the sofa in front of the fire with a beloved pet and a cup of herbal tea, can be so nourishing.
Spend Time in Nature
One common way people are deeply moved and impacted by their psychedelic experience is by remembering their inherent connection to nature. Plant medicines can reignite a sense of biophilia, which means a love for all life.
“I think Grandmother Ayahuasca traveled from the Amazon rainforest to the Western world to heal the earth. By falling in love with this enchanted world, we’ll realize that we are the caretakers of the earth, and we need to heal the environmental crisis we created.” Rachel Harris
Hiking through the forest, getting into the garden, watching the sunset or sunrise, and taking the time to look up at the vastness of the stars can also catalyze peak, mystical experiences, moving us by nature’s awe-inspiring, majestic beauty. The more time we spend immersed in nature, the more we understand our inherent connection to all things. This can play a direct role in influencing the choices we make in our lives and how we choose to live.
In this way, nature offers us a unique and powerful kind of integration support, truly unlike any other. Spend as much time in nature as feels comfortable to you in the weeks post-psychedelic trip. This can prove to be incredibly healing and nourishing to the body, mind, and spirit.
Nourish Yourself with Healthy Foods
Making healthier dietary choices is also a powerful way to honor, respect, and nourish your mind, body, and spirit. Focus on eating as clean as possible; no need to overcomplicate things.
Just go back to the basics. Here are a few suggestions:
- Avoid refined and processed foods and eating from packages.
- Try to eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible.
- Try incorporating more green juices or smoothies and high vibe superfoods.
- If you eat animal protein, try bone broths or organic, free-range meats.
- When it comes to meat, go for quality over quantity
- Consider intermittent fasting if this dietary framework resonates for you.
Nourish Yourself with Good Sleep
Getting good quality sleep after your psychedelic journey is one of the best ways to integrate your psyche back into a unified whole. There’s so much current research about the importance of sleep and how poor sleep affects virtually all aspects of our lives. If you want to improve your sleep, a great place to start is by reading Matthew Walker’s best selling book “Why We Sleep”.
I recommend listening to your body and sleeping as much as you need to, following your psychedelic journey. After a couple of days, try to get into a regular sleep routine, where you go to bed and wake up at the same time, ideally following the circadian rhythm of the moon and sun, while planning for at least 8 full hours of sleep. Getting a full 8 hours of sleep can often mean you’re in bed for anywhere from 8.5 to 10 hours so make sure to give yourself some time buffer.
Follow these suggestions to improve your sleep:
- If you set 10 p.m. as your ideal sleep time, shut down electronics and get off your devices (especially in your bedroom) to reduce exposure to blue light at least 1-2 hours before bed. This prevents the release of melatonin, the neurotransmitter that helps you fall asleep.
- Dim the lights in the evening 1-2 hours before you go to bed.
- Take a hot bath or long hot shower before bed.
- Sleep in a room adjusted to cooler temperatures.
- Get blackout curtains for your room.
- Avoid eating large meals at least 3 hours before you go to bed.
As mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to avoid mind-altering substances during your window of psychedelic integration. Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine are all sleep disruptors.
- Consider avoiding caffeine, especially past 1 pm in the afternoon.
- Don’t be fooled by the sedative effect of alcohol. Alcohol actually disrupts deep sleep cycles more than most people realize.
- Avoid nicotine in the evenings.
Journal About Your Experience
Writing about your psychedelic journey is such an effective way to process it, especially before talking to other people about your experience. Journaling can help you become more aware of how you’re feeling, and slowly draw up more deeply buried internal processes, allowing them to rise to the surface.
Consider using what I call “higher reaching” questions as helpful prompts while journaling during your integration process. These are insightful, thought provoking questions that stretch your heart and open your mind to reach towards the best version of yourself.
- “How do I integrate the wisdom I received into the fabric of my life?”
- “How can I learn to be more compassionate with myself and those I love?”
- “What else is possible to create with my life?”
Cultivating a daily journaling practice can also be powerful, insightful, and profound. There are many different journaling practices and techniques you can explore. Julia Cameron, the best selling author of “The Artists Way” teaches about the many creative benefits of what she calls “morning pages.”
It’s simple. The first thing you do in the morning when you wake up, before doing anything else, is to write three pages of whatever comes to you, following a “stream-of-consciousness” journaling style. No thinking, just writing. This can act as a “mental dump” to help clear your creative channel and remove anything that might be in the way of you calling forth your best work that day.