Are you ready for an intentional psychedelic journey? In this episode transcript of the Psychedelic Passage podcast, Jimmy and Nicholas explain ways to assess if you’re in the right mental state to have a psychedelic experience. They point out certain red flags that may indicate a lack of readiness for such experiences.
Our hosts discuss how forcing the process, rushing it, relying on external influences, or being too attached to a specific outcome, may negatively affect your decision-making and broader healing process. What questions can you ask yourself in order to evaluate your motivations behind journeying?
Jimmy and Nicholas emphasize the importance of personal responsibility and internal work in the healing process, and describe how relying solely on psychedelics can be counterintuitive and counterproductive.
How can seeking peak experiences without proper integration, propagate the reemergence of similar issues? To close off, our hosts discuss how family members may unknowingly cross the line between support and pressure, blurring the personal intentions of a prospective journeyer.
Episode 30 – Are You Ready For an Intentional Psychedelic Journey?
Jimmy: Welcome to the Psychedelic Passage Podcast. My name is Jimmy Nguyen. I’m joined here by my co-host, Nick Levich. Today, we are going to talk about a very important question, “How do when you’re ready for an intentional psychedelic experience?”
I was thinking about this intro a second ago and I was giggling to myself that, Nick, we should really change the name of this podcast to the “It Depends Podcast,” because that’s the answer that we [chuckles] have for everybody across every single question that– It kind of just depends.
Today, we hope to talk about this, obviously, very tangibly and very directly in a way that provides value to your own internal process around timing of an intentional psychedelic experience. And also, I hope that we can give you some frameworks, some questions to ask yourself, some things to consider as you arrive at your own place.
There’s some components of this that are logistical, there are some components of this that are internal. I think that it also depends on life circumstances, and a lot of different things.
So, we’ll be diving in today to really, really thoroughly address this question. Where do you want to start with this, Nick, knowing that likely this decision is going to be different for each person? Where do you want to take this?
Nick: I feel called to start by saying that it’s a deeply internal decision. It occurs on your timeline and not anyone else’s. You have to feel an innate deep calling to want to do this. The second you feel like you’re forcing it or you’re doing it because it’s a should, something you should do, bail.
Like you are not ready. We’ve talked about this briefly, but to me, you know you’re ready, because you’re willing to take that plunge into the unknown, which is inherently super scary, but you’re willing to do it anyway.
That’s that courage required to step into something like this that frankly most people don’t have that urge or that drive unless their present situation is causing enough pain, or discomfort, or dis-ease, or whatever it is that they’re like, “I have to do something differently.” I tend to find that there’s a lot of other things, but those are the key barometers, like when you ask that question that I feel called to share.
Evaluating Your Intentions For The Psychedelic Experience
Jimmy: Yeah, the idea of the pain of saying the same outweighs the pain of change and transformation. I think also that has something even to do with folks who might not identify that there’s something wrong or something that needs to shift. Those are folks who I call seekers. Maybe they’re seeking-
Nick: Purpose, clarity, fulfillment.
Jimmy: -purpose. Maybe they’re seeking something from a spiritual lens, maybe they’re seeking something about themselves, maybe they’re seeking just more internal discovery. And even then, I think what you’re talking about applies to a degree.
What I mean by that is, I would reframe it, meaning that– how crucial is this experience to whatever process it is that you’re going through. For some folks, they might even see that as optional.
I have one client, a deep meditator, he’s really approaching this experience as a part of, “I’m trying to see how deep my spirituality can go. I’ve been meditating for 20 years. It’s got me to this place. I now hear that psychedelics can aid this.”
So, I had a real conversation with them. I was like, “Well, how dependent are you on this experience?” They’re like, “Look, this is a tool, something that I want to explore. I also recognize that it’s sacred and it’s really important.” Then I’m like, “Okay, that makes sense.”
Conversely, if their response was like, “Ah, I’m really stuck. I need this thing to help me get unstuck in my process of spirituality,” then I’d have a whole different conversation with them about why they feel like they need something external.
So, there’s a cascading, I think, element to this as well. What I hear you saying is that it first requires this internal check, this internal inventory on the why, I guess.
Nick: Yea, the what, the why. Look, for me, I don’t find sitting with mushrooms to be particularly enjoyable at all. It’s always uncomfortable for me, I never particularly enjoy it, but I do tend to feel better after.
And so, the question is, what is motivating me to want to put myself through that experience? If I don’t have a real strong motivator, which often comes in the form of an intention, there’s likely no way I’m going to subject myself to that.
I think that that tends to hold true for a lot of people when you realize– I mean, anyone who listened to our episode of like, are you prepared to sit with the unknown and whatever can come up in that space recognizes that. It can be jarring to go through something like this. And so, the question is, what would motivate you to want to do that?
Jimmy: Yeah. Something that you say quite regularly is, are you ready and willing to look under the hood to see what’s going on? I think my one client that I’m speaking about is a great example here. They are reviewing that from a spiritual meditation, like deepening of the self-lens.
And then I asked the question, I was like, “Well, what happens if a trauma you’re not aware of unearths? What happens if you go through a grief process? Are you also available and capable within yourself to navigate that?” So, I think that really depends– The “It Depends” Podcast.
Jimmy: I think it really depends upon the person. Look, even when you arrive at your own internal place about this, this kind of concept that you’re talking about, there’s more to it than that.
That is not enough to then move forward into a psychedelic experience, because timing, logistics, your own knowledge and research around the psychedelic, or the particular medicine, whether you can find a facilitator, or a guide, or a retreat center–
That fits the bill on what you’re looking for, even things like risk tolerance. Everybody has their own internal risk tolerance on what is possible and not possible in specific timings. We’ve had many folks who have reached out to us, psychedelics are now in the news, and they’re reading things, and they’re seeing documentaries, and stuff like that.
After I have a real conversation with them about like, “Look, these substances are still federally illegal and so you need to decide what’s right for your own risk harness, whether you do that here in the United States–
Whether you go to another country where this is legal, maybe you work at a job that has government funding and maybe not.” Even when you have arrived at your own internal place, there’s some of these other considerations that are important to make sure that it all lines up with your needs and wants and desires.
Nick: I mean, financial stability, work stability, relationship stability, housing security, like all of that stuff matters because these tend to be destabilizing events.
Not in a bad way per se, just in the sense of like they kind of knock you out of your orbit, so that you can reset yourself up in a way that serves you better, but that requires having a level of stability and support where you can have a rocky reentry and still feel grounded and like you can integrate it into your life.
The start is that call, that deep calling, you can’t see on the camera right now, but I’m pointing to my chest, my heart, my gut. That’s where the calling comes from for most people. Because I hear this a lot. I should do another one.
I feel like it’s something I should do, but that is inherently coming from the mind. So, to me, there’s this big factor of– where is that pull, that urge, that draw coming from. If it’s not coming from deep within your body, it’s probably coming from thought.
And that’s, usually, someone else’s timeline. It’s full of judgment, it’s full of should-shouldn’t. And so, just making sure that’s coming from a healthy internal place.
The interesting thing is that I find when it comes from that place, surmounting these other things, like logistics, become easier in the sense that you have the motivation to do it. If it’s coming from this mental place, it’s really easy to get totally turned off and hung up on logistics and just throw in the towel.
Setting Realistic Expectations For Your Emotional Availability
Jimmy: Yeah, I think that’s super important what you’re saying and then that does weave in what I was highlighting about the life circumstance components of this, whether you just had a kid, or whether you have a new job, or maybe it’s an existing job where you’re working 60, 70, 80 hours a week.
So in addition to that very deep introspective look under the hood that you are highlighting. I think it’s also important to be honest with yourself about how much time and effort are you willing to commit to the ceremony, because it is just more than taking a day off of work.
It’s a preparation process, it’s an integration process. Both you and I have been through experiences that have– We come out on the other end and it rocked us a little. We do need to take some time to be a little more gentle. And not everybody has that privilege. Not everybody has that privilege to take time off of work or focus on your internal world and the matter at hand.
Nick: I had a client. He’s an alcoholic struggling with alcohol use. He was in rehab prior to our ceremony in order to get clean. And then we did our ceremony and he was in a really good place coming out of rehab and the end of the ceremony. But then on the back end, he was moving.
He was moving his whole life, basically, halfway across the country. In integration, he was like, “I really did not think that timing through. I should not have rushed it into this little window.”
It wasn’t that he didn’t need to do the experience, it was that he didn’t need to do it then. So, this concept of readiness, how do when you’re ready, has a timing component. You have to include this timing piece when considering if you’re ready.
Jimmy: I’ll add another element to this. I guess, it’s more of a public service announcement, I guess. To give yourself the freedom and the right to pause or rethink at any given time in the process.
This is not a situation of opportunity costs or like, “Oh, I’ve already committed so much time,” and you know whatnot. If you’re getting any indication that you need to pause, whether it’s internally, or something comes up in life, or you’re just not ready,
Maybe you were very ready for a while and you went through the whole process of doing your research, you have a plan for the medicine, you found your supporter, facilitator, or service provider, you’re, basically, all the way as close to ceremony as possible.
And then something happens in life, something internally comes up for you, something doesn’t feel intuitively right about timing or the facilitator or any of that.
I really, really urge folks to give themselves their permission to pause and to take a look, take a look at what’s going on, because I’ve seen people back up or back out of this experience at every single stage. The caveat being, you can’t do that on the day of ceremony.
Nick: I mean, you can.
Jimmy: Well, up until before you commune with the medicine.
Nick: Yeah, exactly. That–[crosstalk]
Jimmy: You commune with the medicine, the chartered flight is taking off.
Nick: Yeah. There is not an eject button.
Nick: So, you’re on the ride.
What To Consider Before Deciding to Journey
Jimmy: Look, I’ll acknowledge that. For many folks that come across Psychedelic Passage, we mostly interact with folks who maybe it’s their first time, maybe they had some experiences many, many decades ago and they’re circling back.
But even for the people who have had several psychedelic experiences or many, I just acknowledge that there is this element of the unknown. I know that there’s just this planning for things that you can’t predict. Going along with this analogy of “it depends,” I also thought of something pretty good.
Hear me out here. So, you know how there’s a book for people who are about to have kids? It’s What To Expect When You’re Expecting. I was thinking there could be a psychedelic version of that which is How to Plan for the Unexpected Within Psychedelic Experiences.
Look, I just acknowledge that regardless of how experienced you are with psychedelics, you are planning for something that just baked into it, has this element of this unknown and that too. So, I’m not saying that you should only move forward in a psychedelic experience if you have all the parameters, and all the things dialed in, because there’s a balance here.
Too much control, too much rigidity over that can remove this possibility for the mystery, this possibility for the unknown, where it’s actually that is a really important component of psychedelic processes.
What is really the most salient thing to me is going back to a lot of the principles that you and I talk about, which is the empowerment of the journeyer, to know that you have the freedom and the right, to explore this in whatever way makes sense for you and to have whoever you want to have around you while you’re doing that.
It took me probably a year and a half to commit to doing ayahuasca, and then it probably took an additional like year and a half for me to actually do it. And so, we’re talking about a three-year process for somebody in my shoes who probably at the time had easily had, I don’t know, almost triple digits of psychedelic experiences leading up to there.
So, just to contextualize that this is not about your savviness or how many trips you’ve had and stuff like that, I think even for folks who have a lot of history and experience with psychedelics, everything that we’re talking about applies to them too.
Nick: Yeah. So, we’re highlighting several things that are required to know when you’re ready. If you think about it like a checklist. There’s this deep calling from within your being, there’s a readiness, a willing and ability to look under the hood.
There’s a certain level of research required that goes along with informed consent, just like understanding what you’re stepping into. There’s your own personal risk tolerance needs to match up, because these substances do have risks, every single one of them.
There’s also this support and stability piece, what does your life look like? What does your support system look like? There’s finding the right supporters, professionally, if you intend a journey with a guide or a facilitator. There’s a whole screening process.
There’s a mental, emotional, and physical health check that needs to be done in order to know that you’re ready. That’s a lot of steps, that’s a lot of things that need to be considered and aligned in order, at least for me to say like, “Oh, yeah, I’m ready, or potentially you’re ready.”
Jimmy: Yeah. We’re in a dynamic world. So, somebody can go through that entire process and let’s say in the screening with their facilitator, they find out that there’s, I don’t know, a medical condition or something that precludes them from moving forward.
You could have done all the things on Nick’s list or that summary, and you can move through all of that, and you can get to a place where you’re like, “I’m so ready to do this.” There can still be things that can preclude you from having an experience.
This is so important, because we’re talking about going into the depths of yourself. We’re talking about going into the depths of your own soul and your being, which then includes also doing that safely.
It includes coming back from that, it includes, “Okay, well, what type of support do I need around me if my integration process is more challenging?” I just want to emphasize that.
We’re talking about readiness from a timing component. But I think what’s actually happening is we’re talking about this on a deeper level about the readiness to be okay with any type of outcome that pops up, including the possibility that you actually may not move forward in a psychedelic experience.
I’m saying that short of things like facilitator abuse and stuff like that. Obviously, there’s a number of things that just should never happen in psychedelic experiences. But if you’re ready to navigate all of those things, including relieving the attachment of ceremony and whether the experience actually happens, I think that’s just a powerful place to come from as just an individual.
The Different Phases of Psychedelic Healing
Nick: Well, the other thing is that we’ve really centered this around ready for ceremony, but it’s actually a much bigger or lengthier container than that. And so, there’s also readiness for prep, readiness for integration.
A lot of times we can feel ready for ceremony, which is just a day, but we don’t acknowledge that we don’t have the time, space, or energy to spend two to four weeks after really integrating, because we have a cross country move, or a wedding, or we’re expecting a child, or any of these other things.
It’s actually, I think, important to zoom out a bit more beyond just the ceremony itself. It starts there as far as some of these considerations, but then it also extends before and after that ceremony.
Jimmy: You know what’s interesting as you were talking, what comes up for me is that this is so overlooked in microdosing, because it’s the same principles here. What I find a lot of folks who approach microdosing, microdosing is obviously somewhat different than large dose experiences, because you can start and stop without a lot of negative side effects.
Obviously, it’s low dose, [crosstalk] low risk, less involvement monetarily, low commitment, all that. So, there’s just some things that are baked into microdosing that are little bit more flexible, I guess. But what I find is that the same stuff comes up.
So, most of the time folks who are approaching microdosing, they’re talking about very broadly. I’ll just spit out some things. Wanting to increase neuroplasticity, wanting to focus better at work, wanting to have more clarity–[crosstalk]
Nick: Creativity, problem-solving.
Jimmy: Right. Wanting to have more stress resilience, wanting to be more present, wanting to have more attunement to their emotions. Look, all of those potential benefits are there, but these psychedelic medicines are non-specific amplifiers, which means that it can bring up and exacerbate a lot of different things within your being.
Nick: And to clear out what’s in the way of experiencing all those outcomes.
Jimmy: That’s a good point.
Nick: Sure, you may get to expanded creativity, but what’s in the way of that? Oh, look at this, this wound from when you were a kid, from expressing yourself at the talent show or whatever the case was, which was me.
Jimmy: I remember that story. My heart. [laughs]
Nick: But there’s often things that are in the way of these desired outcomes that you see.
Jimmy: I’ll just pick one of those examples. Let’s say you want to be more present and you’re microdosing. Well, likely if you’re microdosing, it’s going to bring up all the reasons that are keeping you from presence.
Let’s say you are wanting to have more stress resilience through microdosing psilocybin. Well, likely that’s going to bring up all the reasons on your relationship with stress and your triggers and what’s like coming up. So, I very often have clients who start microdosing.
They’re so, so focused on just the benefits and they’re so focused on that. But I have to have a real conversation about them to say, “Well, what if some stuff that’s really uncomfortable comes up for you? What if some stuff that you’re not ready and willing to look at comes up for you?”
which totally derails your whole goal of stress resilience or whatnot? Or, and the best example, you’re looking to have more performance at work, what if your work environment is super toxic, no matter how much you show up at work and do your thing and knock off your to do– [crosstalk]
Nick: Or, microdose or take ceremony or–[crosstalk]
Jimmy: Right. Our whole entire conversation applies, regardless of the substance, regardless of the dosage, regardless of any of that.
Signs That You’re Not Ready For a Psychedelic Experience
Nick: We’ve talked about things to look for signals for when you’re ready. Maybe we just spend a couple of minutes talking about red flags or signals that you’re not ready, so that there’s the opposite side here.
So, two things that come up for me, which I’ve mentioned but are worth re-highlighting is forcing it and rushing it. The second I hear or feel that energy, I am very quick to pump the brakes and figure out what’s going on here.
“Oh, I only have this tiny little window and if I don’t get it in here, I can never do it again.” Or, “My friend did this, so I feel I need to do it, but I don’t even really know what I’m stepping into.” Those kinds of things, that is not a sign of readiness for me.
Jimmy: I actually have been seeing that a lot with parent-child dynamics. Son or daughter or whatnot is an adult, but the parent, let’s say, wants them to go through this experience, whether they’re dealing with an addiction or some type of disruptive pattern behavior.
It’s this idea that somebody else is influencing your own internal decision about moving through psychedelics, which is the other thing that I would want to add that anytime that you are reliant on external forces for your own healing process, that is a red flag to me.
Regardless of whether it’s a parent, spouse, friend influencing you, or if that is you personally relying on psychedelic medicine, or some substance, or whatever to come in and do the work for you.
It doesn’t matter if you view it as a cure all or a magic bullet or if you’re just viewing this as a really, really powerful tool, you have to get into your own integrity about how much you are relying or putting the emphasis on something external, because there is no replacement for your own internal work.
We talk about this anecdote of people who seek peak experiences all the time. In those peak experiences, they feel everything is connected, all their problems are solved, all of that stuff.
They go out into regular life, they don’t do any integration or maybe they integrate at best like very, very minimally, guess what? Three to six months later, they’re dealing with the same stuff.
Nick: Yeah, nothing [crosstalk] for it.
Jimmy: Same things that come up.
Nick: Other red flags for me are like, I call it “The Hail Mary.” If this doesn’t work, there’s no hope for me, because that does a number of different things that are, perhaps, even more destabilizing on the back end.
And so, certain states of despair, if expectations aren’t tempered, just straight up instability in day-to-day life, those are red flags that signal a lack of readiness, a lack of appropriate timing to be able to move forward to something like this.
Jimmy: Yeah. I’m encapsulating something that you said in my own words, which is, how attached are you to the outcome? I think that that’s an important question that every person needs to ask in whatever content is coming up in your psychedelic experience.
If you’re looking for it to be the certain way or have the specific outcome, regardless of whether it’s wanting to quit smoking, or wanting to quit drinking, or wanting to find self-love. If you get too focused on outcomes, then you are inherently creating conditionality and you are inherently creating expectations, which those are part of human nature.
We’re just predicting machines trying to have homeostasis and stability and survive. But it can also be counterintuitive or counterproductive to any work at hand that can come up in psychedelic experiences.
Nick: Yeah. Other red flags are people who just don’t have the base level of information or education required to even make an informed decision. It’s like, “Hey, someone told me I should do this, but I don’t even really know what it is.”
Okay, rewind. You should probably go do your own due diligence here to decide if it’s what you want to do. So, that’s another one that I’ve seen and I’m very cautious around.
Jimmy: I see another dynamic too, where folks have done– All of these internal steps that you’re highlighting and then they also then are hard pressed in, let’s say, finding the medicine, or finding the right person, or finding the right facilitator.
I also, for those folks, feel like they put a lot of pressure on themselves, like I’ve done all this work, I’ve done all this research, I’ve read all this stuff, I’m internally ready, I’m inherently ready, and I can’t find a facilitator or I can’t afford going on this international retreat.
I think that those intangibles are also important. It’s also important, there is a reason why around timing on whether you have the access to move forward into this experience or not. I’m not saying that those reasons are always altruistic.
I’m just saying that there’s barriers in implementation here. So, for many folks, the moment that you put some timing of pressure or pressure of timing onto this, you’re setting yourself up for some cognitive dissonance here.
When we’re talking about psychedelic experiences, we’re talking about surrendering, how it should look and how it should be. Of course, you want to have a plan and of course, you want to have safety at the top of your mind.
But then the whole part of navigating the psychedelic experience is this sizing up, this constant comparison on, “Oh, it should be this way and this timing and look this way and have this content. I should have a union with God,” or, “I should have the ability to release this thing.” All of those concepts that we talk about, it applies here in this conversation too.
Nick: Yeah. Any other red flags that come to mind for you?
Jimmy: I think your list is pretty thorough, so I do appreciate that. I think the main thing that I want to express to folks is that, if it’s not feeling like 100% f*ck yes for you-
Nick: Full body yes.
Jimmy: -full body yes.
Nick: Whole being.
Jimmy: Look, it’s okay to have some anticipation. It’s okay to have some nervousness. Those are signs-
Nick: That’s healthy.
Jimmy: -that your nervous system is like, “Okay, something’s about to happen here.” So, that’s not what we’re talking about. If there’s doubt, or unsurety, or some internal conflict that you’re identifying, I really, really hope that you take some time to sit with that and take some time– [crosstalk]
Nick: And it doesn’t mean no. It just means maybe not now or maybe there’s something else that hasn’t been addressed here. That’s this readiness piece. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever do this. It just means maybe now is not the right time.
I think it’s just the last thing that I want to highlight here is that, a lot of people get stuck in this mindset of like, “If I don’t do it now, I’ll never be able to do it,” or, “It’s going to be too late.” “I’ll have done too much damage or too much,” whatever.
It does not work that way. We have an unlimited number of chances to right the ship and you’re actually going to increase your odds of doing so if you do it in the right timing that’s unique to you and your situation as opposed to forcing it on this arbitrary timeline.
Jimmy: That’s that all or nothing mentality that you’ve been highlighting that can be actually quite damaging. I think that even applies for folks who have a medical condition that excludes them from having a psychedelic experience.
Maybe it’s not a large dose experience. Maybe you do only have the option of microdosing right now. I found that microdosing has just as much effect if you look upon a longer timeline. It has just as much effect as large dose peak experiences.
So, I hope that this has been helpful for folks to listen to. Nick and I rant about this really, really important topic and thank you for listening to this episode.
That wraps it up for us today. You can download episodes of the Psychedelic Passage Podcast. You can subscribe to our show on Apple Podcast, Amazon, Spotify, IHeartRadio, anywhere you get your podcast.
Thank you so, so much from the bottom of both of our hearts for listening in. Thank you so much to our community and we look forward to seeing you next week.
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