Psychedelics activists recently released guidelines for safely and effectively participating in healing ceremonies using entheogenic substances as they await legislative action to legalize the practice in Oakland.
Last year, Oakland lawmakers made the city the first in the nation to decriminalize a wide range of psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca. But advocates made clear they wanted to expand on that reform, and last month they unveiled an initiative to allow people to consume the plants and fungi in controlled settings.
While a draft ordinance allowing psychedelic healing ceremonies has been submitted to Councilmember Noel Gallo (D), who sponsored the successful possession decriminalization measure, the Oakland City Council has not yet scheduled a hearing on the idea. But in the meantime, the reform group Decriminalize Nature (DN) is giving people a look at the guiding principles and practices they feel will provide for a safe and meaningful experience.
“Entheogenic plants and mushrooms are powerful materials and should be treated with respect,” the new document released last week states. “These guidelines should be reviewed by the individual, facilitator, and participating community organization when deciding whether to have an entheogenic experience.”
The group’s first couple points place a strong emphasis on education. People should learn about the specific entheogen they plan to consume, as each one “has different protocols, unique wisdom, varying durations, and pre/post care practices that should be considered when deciding which entheogen may best support the healing process.” They should also be mindful of “potential physical, psychological, or social risks that may be present.”
Then there’s preparation. While DN said personal agency should be exercised, there are some guidelines that could be useful to ensure that the experience is maximized. For example, that could involve “meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, connecting to nature, eating a healthy diet, and reducing the use of technology.”
The “application and peak experience” should be done once the participant is fully informed and at a location that’s safe, the guidance says.
“Research studies indicate these experiences are often reported as healing, profound, sacred, and deserving of respect, and can provide insights and reflections on deep emotions and past trauma to help heal the individual,” DN said. “These experiences may be difficult and one must be prepared to address any challenging reflections that may emerge.”
The guidance doesn’t end with the trip, however. In fact, it stresses that the most important part of a healing ceremony comes in the hours and days after, with integration and implementation.
“While entheogens open up the mind to what is possible, it is ‘the Work’ that makes the difference through integrating the peak experience for better living,” the document states. “Integration is one practice to address the reflections and insights following an entheogenic experience.”
“It is generally recommended to pause and reflect within one’s community support system before finalizing any major life decisions. Note of caution: Entheogenic experiences can expand one’s view of the world and it is important for the participant to be fully aware of the importance of personal grounding and the reduction of external stimulus and information which can overwhelm or sidetrack the intention of the experience. It is advisable to seek peaceful and nurturing activities especially during the first 48-72 hours after the experience, session, or ceremony.”
Integrating the insights a person gathered during the experience is similarly important, they said, adding that “these insights encourage a shift in habitual activities that no longer serve the individual and may require external support to thrive, such as eating a healthier diet, exercising more, meditating, healing personal relationships, and finding a supportive and nourishing community.”
Finally, the guidance talks about reciprocity—making the most out of one’s personal experience but also nurturing long-term and community growth.
“To be in service is to show gratitude and humility, two key ingredients for continued personal growth. This includes service to the natural environment with attention toward the sustainability and stewardship of entheogenic plants and mushrooms,” DN said. “Additionally, a growing network of support and reciprocity will help Oakland communities thrive.”
Read DN’s guide to safely participating in psychedelic ceremonies below: