Psychedelics and mental health
The ascendance of wellness has uncovered many different healing modalities previously and prematurely buried by fearful and unheeding authority figures.
But as any cultivator will tell you, a lot of growth can happen while things are germinating underground. Now that cannabis has exploded — and in some cases, imploded — psychedelics are now getting a second look. Medicine Box has a few things to say about this, in hopes that this opportunity is not squandered.
First off, let us go on record as saying that we as a company embrace the resurgence of interest in psychedelics 100%. We have known for many years what mental health institutions and people like Goop are already waking up to — that when properly used, psychedelics have the power to heal and enlighten far more people than they already have, and if we’re lucky, these buggers just might end up saving our meatless bacon while they’re at it. But just like in cannabis, all the usual suspects are mobilizing to ensure they are the ones in control. Yet just like in wellness, a devoted cadre of true believers kept the torch lit for these practices and took an extraordinary personal risk for doing so. Now that we’re seeing two cities (Oakland and Santa Cruz) decriminalize plant-based psychedelics, one city (Denver) decriminalize magic mushrooms and two decriminalization ballot initiatives collecting signatures in Oregon and California, we’d all better begin thinking about what WE want this new future to look like, and who’s going to be calling the shots. IMO, it should be left up to the people who know it best.
The seven pillars of psychedellics
At Medicine Box, pretty much anything that touches on all our seven pillars can be considered medicine. However, that tool can’t be successfully utilized if it isn’t executing on those seven pillars. There’s simply no phoning it in — you need to run on all seven of these cylinders to be mentally and physically fit. Not everybody appreciates this.
So, can psychedelics pass through these filters? Let’s see for ourselves:
Granted, there are synthetic psychedelics. But even those wouldn’t exist without the far superior example of psychedelics found in nature, whether that’s in the root of an African shrub, a mushroom, or a cactus. They came first, and the rest followed. That’s key.
Unlike our desensitizing civilization, psychedelics RE-sensitize you to the natural world, and that starts with food. Not long ago, some friends of mine participated in a peyote ceremony. The males cut the wood and prepared the setting, and the women prepared the food, and therefore the set. When put in the right container, psychedelics force you to get right with yourself, and you can’t do that with an unhappy belly.
The oldest psychedelic traditions on earth stem from indigenous communities, many of which are shaped by the visions they receive from their trances in certain ways. Over time, they’ve learned things together about life using these tools that we haven’t. Anyone looking to integrate these plants into her life simply cannot go it alone. Simply put, it takes teamwork to make the dreamtime work.
Now this isn’t because the first time I ever did psychedelics happened to be at a Phish show (The Great Went in ‘97, to be exact). The oldest psychedelic ceremonies have ALWAYS incorporated music into the proceedings, whether it’s a chakapa, a drum or a didgeridoo. Fast forward and it’s more about music festivals and Burning Man. But it all serves the same purpose — to take us, in the words of the Merry Pranksters, even Furthur.
Once within the communal framework, those undergoing psychedelic rituals are working with their shamans and the plant as mechanics to enter the spirit world. It’s a reality that is co-created — plant and human, as one and the same.
Mindfulness makes the difference between a profound healing journey and a facile thrill ride. As is so often said, psychedelic use is about set, or the mind frame of the person about to enter into this state, and placing oneself in a position of calm and spiritual resolve maximizes the potential for the sorts of miracles one will receive.
As I like to say, everybody is recovering from something. It’s not surprising that we’re starting to hear about psychedelics like ibogaine FINALLY being explored for the drug rehabilitation work that has been done with it for decades underground. However, no matter what your trauma, psychedelics can, if used properly with the proper guide, take you through the other end.
Now of course, the resurgence of psychedelic therapy has finally shown that the West is open to bringing the shaman into mental health by way of the therapist. It is an extraordinary moment we’re seeing unfold, one where the “systemic edge,” as my mentor Michael Hollister called it, of institutional power and control is slowly eroding. A full upgrade of our origin narratives is under way, and psychedelics no doubt play a major role in this project. However, those who kept this dream alive for so many years simply MUST have a seat at the table. The “systemic edge” of military, government and corporate forces all see opportunity to consolidate control even further — and they have ever since the days of MK-ULTRA. Ideally, the architecture of a legal psychedelic “industry,” if you will, should come from visions conjured up by the plants themselves, and from the people who have worked with them successfully for all of their lives. If it is left up to state bureaucrats and lobbyists, this opportunity will be lost. And too much is at stake for that to happen.
Rays of blue sunshine
Luckily, there’s plenty of good guys to plug into at this point, all of who are doing good work in the space. Our good friend, Rolling Stone correspondent Madison Margolin, has co-founded Double Blind Magazine, and they’ve done a fine job at merging the old-school “head” newspaper of old with a woke sensibility. And there is Medicinal Mindfulness, a psychedelic advocacy group which integrates cannabis as a psychedelic medicine into their therapy sessions, and also offers coursework on trip-sitting and psychedelic counseling, mostly derived from the teachings at the seminal New Age institution Naropa.
The most important thing to realize about a psychedelic trip — and the scariest thing, initially — is that it never ends. The things that you see and experience should stay with you and influence you for the rest of your life. Those who are building the proper foundation for this work work heavily on integrating these lessons into mandates that can guide a person’s behavior from that point onwards. So while we’re not on the bus at this point in time, we at Medicine Box are inspired enough by it to integrate its lessons into the way we work with our selected herbs and lifestyle choices. Simply put, no one who takes health and wellness seriously in the 21st century can afford to ignore what is finally, after so many years, within our reach.