Here are some of the mental and emotional tools that have been demonstrated to help navigate the inner journey more effectively: First, we want to remind everyone that everything is an educational opportunity. Everything is for your benefit, and you are the only one who can recognize what is beneficial to you in order to use it. There is nothing in your material experience or in your spiritual exploration that can help you or hurt you that you yourself don’t allow. Whether ceremony for you is very mild and easily manageable or deeply challenging and intense, absolutely everything is an educational experience.
Next, we want to remind you that everything is temporary. Absolutely everything will pass. Time can appear greatly distorted during a ceremony, and if we are unprepared, this can be disturbing. But rest assured, all things will pass. We may have blissful and euphoric experiences, and we may want it to last forever, but it won’t. It will morph and shift into something else. Or we may just as easily have dark and oppressive experiences to face all our fears and all of our personal demons, and we may be afraid that it will last forever, but it won’t. We will return to our material story.
One of the physical tools we may use during the inner journey is the practice of controlled breathing. It is important to remember that if the journey feels too intense, this is not the time to stand up in the middle of the rollercoaster ride and say, “Stop this ride! I want off!” No, this is the time to sit still, pull the lap-bar down, hold on and pay attention. The only thing the physical body needs to be doing is breathing, and when things feel intense, it is very helpful to practice breathing slowly. This is a powerful tool to use when things feel scary or overwhelming, and it can help prevent a downward spiral into loss of control. It is almost physiologically impossible to breathe slowly and be anxious at the same time.
The practice of controlled breathing is sometimes known as diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing or belly breathing. The technique is to inhale through the nose, focusing your attention on the diaphragm muscle in the abdomen, allowing the abdomen to rise while the chest remains sunken and relatively motionless. The crown of the head is raised, extending the spine naturally, and the upper back is rounded, putting as much distance between the shoulders and ears as possible. Exhale through the nose or mouth, but never inhale through the mouth. Always inhale through the nose.
The duration of the breath should be the same on the inhale and the exhale, or slightly longer on the exhale. The qualities of the breath should be SLOW, SMOOTH, DEEP and RELAXED. In structured breathing exercises, we may count during the breath cycles to learn to control our focus and will, but that is not what we are doing during ceremony. We are simply maintaining conscious control of the mind and body through intentional direction of the breath in order to stay open and receptive.
The best way to approach ceremony mentally is to suspend projection of your conditioned habits. When you drink, simply say, “Thank you. Show me what I need to see.” Remain relaxed, open and allowing. The key to receiving the most from your journey is to surrender.
We encourage everyone to give thought to their intentions as they approach ceremony. We may have particular healing or spiritual goals, or we may be seeking a generalized sense of relief or deeper understanding. It is not necessary to put clear words to your intention, but I believe it is helpful to think about it. We have found that contemplating your intentions beforehand does seem to make it easier to put together the pieces of the puzzle after ceremony.
We must remain open, however, to whatever the medicine presents to us. Even if we have clear intentions about what we would like to accomplish, we must be flexible about what we are willing to receive. Since you are seeking answers from within your own consciousness, it makes sense to recognize that your higher mind knows what would be healthiest for you better than what your lower mind guesses.
With that in mind, we should acknowledge that we may or may not have a clear idea about what we would like to see, but clarity beforehand is not necessary, because our higher mind knows exactly what we need to see. We would do well to set aside the doubts, expectations and demands of the ego, and get out of the way of our own healing and understanding. The body already knows how to heal itself. The mind already knows how to heal itself. Our conditioning and mental resistance often gets in the way. Our lower, ego-driven mind already has the ability to receive intuitive guidance from our higher, spirit-conscious mind. We just have to listen.
When used in a ceremonial setting, psilocybin is best thought of as a spirit medicine that reveals truths of existence that challenge our current perspective of personal identity, history, culture, and even the nature of reality. The training currently provided by western medicine does not yet offer a meaningful framework for understanding, describing and integrating this kind of extreme psychological shift in perspective.
It would be the healthiest of circumstances for science-based medicine and spiritual healing to work together, but our culture is not there yet. It is appropriate that people bring their faith to the hospital, but it is not useful to impose dogmatic belief systems. It is appropriate that people bring their scientific curiosity to church, but it is not productive to bring academic skepticism. Both dogmatic belief systems and academic skepticism seem to prevent the psychological shift in perspective that is required for personal transformation to occur, which is the condition necessary for deep and lasting healing. Entheogens have the ability to occasion this psychological shift in perspective. Supported with a new language framework to promote the integration of practical ideas into daily life, entheogens may be used to induce states of consciousness that allow an individual to overcome many previously perceived limitations.
Before we become aware of these mental abilities to overcome limitations, we may turn to pharmaceuticals for relief. A much-asked question is ‘is it safe to have a psilocybin experience while on antidepressant medication?’. Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There are a lot of different antidepressants and they all have different mechanisms of operation. And of course, psilocybin itself has played a crucial role. Luckily, there is a sound body of research into the working mechanisms of psilocybin (and other entheogenic substances).There has been extensive research into the safety of psilocybin (and other entheogens). The results are encouraging; psilocybin has a low toxicity and doesn’t lead to organ damage or neuropsychological deficits. Psilocybin shares with other psychedelics that they act as an agonist at the serotonin 2A receptor subtype (5-HT2AR). This means that psilocybin works via a very specific system in our brain, traceable to the molecular level. Unfortunately, most antidepressants also work (partly) through this receptor.
A problem that might occur with substances that work through serotonin is ‘serotonin syndrome’, a possible life-threatening syndrome that occurs when there is too much serotonin in the body. Drug interations implicated in serotonin syndrome
Antidepressants: Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), TCAs, SSRIs, bupropion
Opiods: Tramadol, pethidine, meperidine
CNS Stimulants: phentermine, diethylpropion, amphetamines, methylphenidate, methamphetamine, cocaine.
Montelykast, buspirone, lithium, linezolid, dextromethorphan, 5-Hydroxtryptophan (5HTP)
Indoles: Psilocybin, LSD
Herbs: St John’s Wort, yohimbe
The clinical manifestations of serotonin syndrome are:
Hyperthermia, hypertension, tachycardia, sweating, mydriasis flushing, agitation, confusion, hyperactivity, hypomania, hyperreflexia, clonus, tremor in lower limbs.
The occurrence of serotonin syndrome is fortunately rare, but it is a reason that we advise people to be careful with psilocybin while on antidepressants. It is advisable to consult with your GP or psychiatrist before going on a retreat. They can (possibly) help you to discontinue the antidepressants before going on a retreat. For an optimal retreat it is thus advisable (if possible) to stop any of these substances before going on a retreat. It is highly recommended to do this under supervision of a medical professional.
Besides the aforementioned antidepressants there are a lot of other types. Unfortunately, even less is known about these. Most of them do have serotonergic effects, so the same cautions are advised. If you need to consult with a medical professional regarding your medications prior to your participation in ceremonies, World Tree can aid in connecting you with a safe clinician who is familiar with the contraindications of pharmaceutical and entheogenic substances.
Any information provided by certified medicine persons and representatives of World Tree Sanctuary are not presented as medical advice, except in the instances of licensed physicians who appear in our membership and on our board of directors. All information provided is to help prospective participants make informed decisions regarding risks associated with combining psilocybin and other substances. It is necessary for their safety that church members reveal to us an honest account of their medical history and any medications or dietary supplements they are currently taking before they will be allowed to participate in ceremony. It is the ideal situation that prospective participants coordinate the discontinuation of their contraindicated medications with their prescribing physicians. In any circumstance, it is ultimately the participant who takes full responsibility for following the advice of their prescribing physicians and adhering to the guidelines recommended by World Tree.
For psilocybin ceremonies, facilitators do not require members and participants to follow a specific diet in preparation, due to very little risk of interactions between compounds found in food and psilocybin. However, following the recommended guidelines can begin to effectuate holistic change in one’s life and can help aid in the integration process on the other side of their journey.
Pre and Post Ceremony Diet:
Basic Guidelines and Recommendations: The simplest diet is to eat light vegetarian food for three days before and after the sacred ceremony and eating only raw food on the day of. It is recommended for two weeks prior and one week before ceremony, to avoid dairy, red meats, alcohol, high levels of salt, sugar, and high fat foods. Avoid spicy foods, fermented foods, eggs, dairy, and caffeine for three days before and after ceremony and maintain very light consumption of salt, sugar, and fat.
Can and should eat lots of: Fresh or lightly cooked vegetables, legumes, beans, peas, brown rice, buckwheat, oats, barley, fresh fruits and juices, olive oil or ghee instead of other cooking oils, fresh organic eggs, locally sourced meat.
Diet on the Day of Ceremony: A simple vegetarian breakfast is the best diet for the day of the ceremony. In some cases, a vegan diet or fasting may be recommended.
Avoid: Spicy foods, caffeine, eggs, dairy, heavy sweets.
We recommend that participants stop eating approximately 5 hours prior to the ceremony, and drink only water or herbal tea. So long as the participant is not dizzy or nauseous, some fruits, water, and herbal tea will be provided during and after the ceremony. After the ceremony a vegetarian meal will be provided.
Ultimately, how you approach ceremony is your choice and your responsibility. You can follow
our admonitions or not. You can follow our preparations or not. You can follow our path of
aftercare and continued education or not. We do not claim to have any kind of monopoly
on the best methods to use with entheogens. We only have our own experience, and the history of shared experiences of thousands of years of spiritual seekers before us.
What you experience during ceremony is up to you. What you do after ceremony is up to you. What we offer is ongoing fellowship. We believe that what a church is supposed to offer is mutual support and encouragement as we figure ourselves out. World Tree Sanctuary offers support before, during and after ceremony. It may be that you are a hundred percent personally responsible for your individual choices in life, but you don’t have to do it alone.