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See You On the Other Side Podcast Interviews Jimmy Nguyen

In this engaging episode of “See You On The Other Side,” hosts Christine and Leah welcome a very special guest, Jimmy Nguyen from Psychedelic Passage. Jimmy delves into his background and the mission of Psychedelic Passage. 

He shares his personal journey of healing and exploration with psychedelics, highlighting the importance of safe and intentional use.  The discussion takes an interesting turn as they explore the relationship between cannabis and psychedelics. 

They reflect on how cannabis, once considered a “gateway drug,” is now seen as a positive gateway to exploring other plant medicines. They discuss the evolving societal perceptions of cannabis and how it has laid the groundwork for the acceptance and understanding of psychedelics.

The hosts and Jimmy touch upon the significance of the current psychedelic renaissance and its timing in our world. They highlight the role of increased awareness, accessibility to information through platforms like podcasts and the internet, and the growing recognition of mental health issues. 

Jimmy provides a nuanced perspective, emphasizing the importance of creating a safe and supported container for psychedelic experiences. He discusses the diverse range of facilitators and professionals in the field and the need for standards and vetting processes to ensure the well-being of those seeking psychedelic experiences. 

They explore the delicate balance between personal support from friends and the benefits of working with trained professionals. The conversation continues with a focus on intention, integration, and the importance of post-experience support. 

Jimmy shares how Psychedelic Passage collaborates with therapists and psychiatrists to provide comprehensive integration services for their clients. They emphasize the significance of intention setting, preparation, and integration work in maximizing the transformative potential of psychedelics.

See You on The Other Side – “Psychedelic Passage (with Co-Founder Jimmy Nguyen)

Christine: Welcome back, listeners, to another episode of See You On The Other Side. I am your cohost, Christine, and I’m sitting here with, of course, Leah, but we have a very special guest, Jimmy Nguyen from Psychedelic Passage. Hi, Jimmy. 

Jimmy: Yeah. Hi. Yeah, Jimmy Nguyen. 

Christine: Nguyen. Dang it. 

Jimmy: W-I-N. You were very close though. 

Christine: My apologies. 

Jimmy: You were much closer than the first attempt. No, it’s all good. Same guy. 

Christine: Much closer on the first attempt. This is my second attempt. 

[laughter] 

Jimmy: Ah, it’s really great to be here. 

Christine: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, all that good stuff?

Jimmy: Yeah, [crosstalk] the default response to that would be that, I am a cofounder and one of the leaders at an organization called Psychedelic Passage. 

And Psychedelic Passage does a number of things, but primarily, we connect folks who are ready to embark on some type of intentional work with psychedelics to service providers. We started off with our own in-house group of facilitators spread across the country, have been doing facilitation work with psychedelics for a number of years. 

Outside of that default response, I just consider myself a human who– I have this tag on my Instagram that says, “I transmute my own suffering into love and help people find their own inner healer.” And so, that’s been like my mission for a very, very long time of which Psychedelic Passage is one of those outlets for. 

Leah: I love that. 

Psychedelic Passage: Bridging the Gap Between Personal and Clinical Models

Christine: I do too. So, how did this start? How did this come about, Psychedelic Passage?

Jimmy: Psychedelic Passage? Yeah, I was sharing with you a little bit before– 

Christine: [laughs] 

Jimmy: I’ll go back and say that the whole impetus for all of this was my own trials and tribulations of my own healing, my own exploration of my consciousness, doing so with psychedelics, doing so a lot rather unstructured and unsafely. 

Psychedelic Passage is a combination of my efforts and my fellow co-founder, best friend, Nick Levich. We started the organization in 2019. I guess, I’ll tell the story again. 

Prior to that, really where this all started was we were at a concert, we had traveled across the country to go to this rave, essentially and electronic music, and that whole scene is really important to me and my life. 

I do harm reduction work at Burning Man and Zendo. It’s just where a lot of folks are exploring psychedelics and drugs for the first time in this setting of public spaces and music and all of that. 

We were in the midst of our own somewhat career challenges and career changes. Prior to that, I spent eight years in the legal cannabis industry. Nick had been running a CBD company for five years. 

Both very entrepreneurial. We were at this juncture of like, “What are we doing next separately?” He turned to me and he’s like, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if the way that we serve the world was through psychedelics somehow, and that could be the way that we can make a living and make our impact on the world?” 

I’ll repeat this again. I’m in the middle of this rave, and there’s all this stuff going on, I literally sit down and I just start crying, like, I’m crying for [laughs] five minutes. It just hit something, I think within my soul that felt like the right thing to do. 

Then from there, we really took our time to discover, and try to ideate, and try to really think about, “Okay, what is it that people need now?” Nick and I had always viewed ourselves– 

His spiritual teacher always tells him that he’s on the transition team. So, if you imagine like a theater, Nick and I consider ourselves like the ushers, like, helping people get to their seat and to get comfortable and to all of that stuff. 

So, we learned very quickly that there were a lot of folks out there who were psychedelic curious, there were a lot of folks who are now psychedelic interested, but very little to no actual information on how to go about doing that, short of maybe trying to apply for a clinical trial, in which case you might get put in the placebo group or going on an international retreat. 

And so, we started that way by providing actual information, and resources, and connecting folks. We started our own formal facilitation services through that. And now, we’ve grown quite tremendously. 

Our goal is to have facilitators accessible across the country. That might not mean a facilitator in each state, but we’ve been really grateful to serve folks probably in every state at this point across the hundreds of ceremonies and facilitation services that we provided. 

Christine: Wow. 

Cannabis as a Gateway to Psychedelics: Shifting Perspectives

Leah: So, what’s interesting is you spoke a little bit on being in the cannabis industry, and I said earlier, I had a podcast about cannabis. And this question comes up a lot like or just the word, people say cannabis is the gateway drug. 

Lately, I’ve been thinking about it very differently. I’m like, “What if it’s a gateway to something positive?” For me, it led to psychedelics. 

I still use cannabis intentionally, just not the way that I was using it before unintentionally to escape my stuff. It’s weird how I feel like we’ve even had some people on who are in the psychedelic space now whose place started in CBD or cannabis. 

Christine: I think cannabis maybe sports that curiosity. 

Leah: Yeah. 

Jimmy: Yeah. When the war on drugs started, they probably didn’t think that the whole gateway drug thing would be totally flipped on its head now. Yeah, it’s really interesting. Cannabis was, for sure, my first love as well. I still don’t understand to this day how it’s possible that a little plant can make you feel so good. 

For some folks, I acknowledge, they have anxiety and some heightened issues around that. I think a lot about the role that cannabis has played in the emergence of psychedelics in our modern society today, knowing also that cannabis is a vehicle for consumerism, and hyper capitalism, and all of those things. 

In a way, I feel like all medicines, plant medicines, psychedelic substances, even like synthetic medicines, they all have their own frequency. They all have their own, what I call, sentience to it. 

Christine and Leah: Yeah.

Jimmy: So, I like to believe that cannabis is consenting to the way it’s being pimped out in this society, because it’s actually a really good cautionary tale on the pitfalls, if psychedelics go the same way. Now psychedelics have some inherent things built into it. 

It’s not a daily use thing though there’s a lot of pharmaceutical companies trying to add in addictive additives. There’s people who are trying to find the analogues of psychedelic substances that maybe don’t create this altered state of consciousness, so that people can take a pill every day. 

Then the other thing too is that baked into psychedelics is this whole ecosystem of support, which cannabis doesn’t have. Cannabis is very much, “Oh, you go buy your product, go home, try it, maybe you get a little too high, maybe it works for you, maybe it helps you to sleep, maybe it doesn’t.” But mostly people are like on their own. 

Christine and Leah: Yeah. 

Christine: It’s very good point.

Jimmy: It’s helpful for folks. Actually, the cannabis industry is really supported by uneducated users, because there’s not a lot of folks who would even think about using cannabis intentionally, like you’re saying Leah, and then that keeps people to come back and use. 

So, in my own history of abusing and not abusing cannabis, or now I’ve come into a much deeper relationship with it, but I actually think that it serves as a really great backdrop on which the potential for any work or emergence of psychedelics in our society can be in a healthier fashion, I think. 

Leah: Well, I think it’s laying the groundwork for maybe the world coming around to the idea that something that we’ve been taught was so bad for us for so long. Now they’re seeing cannabis becoming a really positive thing. For me, it was like, “Oh, well, what else is there that we’ve been told is so wrong about these plant medicines or these psychedelics?” That’s just not even the truth. So, I think it’s just laying that groundwork. I think you’re right. I think cannabis knows what it’s doing. [giggles] 

Christine: Yeah, that’s a very good point. 

Jimmy: Yeah, that’s just a juncture of our society nowadays, which is, all the beliefs and structures are all being questioned. So, it actually makes a lot of sense that psychedelics are emerging now. Even just from a mental health standpoint, 10 years, 20 years ago, people are like, “Suck it up.” 

Christine and Leah: Yeah. 

Jimmy: Now it’s like, “Oh, mental health is a real thing and then now we need more tools.” So, even in that aspect, when people get really pushed to the brink, whether from the pandemic or our state of affairs, like the way that this country is run. A lot of people are running up against their limits and challenging what they believe, and what’s possible out there, and alternatives, and all that type of stuff. 

Leah: I think that the psychedelic renaissance is happening right when it’s supposed to happen, honestly.

Christine: Yeah.

Leah: With the tools that we have, with the way that we’re able to communicate through the internet and through podcasts and get this information out there very quickly, especially after 2020. 

Christine: I was going to say, once the pandemic hit, I think we all maybe had to take a little bit of an introspective look at ourselves and how we really were, because I was very much so a hustle, grind culture. My worth was dependent on what I was doing and my productivity and what I was doing for other people. And psychedelics made me do more of an introspective look on what I really want and who I want to be and resting. 

Leah: So, I do have a question for you, because one of the things we get asked a lot from our listeners, they’re always coming to us asking about guiding and trip sitting. While I feel comfortable trip sitting for a friend, I have never ever wanted to or feel comfortable trip sitting for someone I don’t know. So, with Psychedelic Passage, that’s what you’re providing for these people is access to a sitter?

The Nuances of Trip Sitting and Facilitation in Psychedelic Experiences

Jimmy: Yeah. I go back and forth on how much I like the term, trip sitter, anyways though it is the most, I guess, popular phrase regarding that. It’s a really nuanced thing. What we’re trying to do at Psychedelic Passage is prove that a private, personal use, intentional, ceremonial model can coincide and coexist with clinical medical models. 

They can exist with these different models. We’re talking about the psychedelic renaissance. We’re in a really tricky time right now, because it’s very popularized and mainstream, though the direction in which psychedelics can go as far as accessibility, the services provided, who’s providing those services, who’s writing prescriptions if there are any. I think a lot about this, I’m like, “Who are the gatekeepers to these types of experiences?” 

So, I hold internally that exploring your consciousness is a fundamental human right. Exploring your consciousness with any substance is also a fundamental human right. And so, therefore, you should also have a right on who you have around you to hold space for you. 

And so, I like the term facilitation, because there are also just inherent power dynamics around going to a professional or like we said, a shaman or whatever, just thinking, “Oh, that’s the person who has the answer. 

So, let me just comply to all of that.” And so, it’s very interesting what you were saying about, okay, well, I’m comfortable holding space or trip sitting for a friend, but I don’t know if I would do so for a stranger.

Actually a lot of people out there who would actually prefer to work with a vetted professional who has nothing to do with their lives, who doesn’t view them in some specific way, who doesn’t have any objectives or goals. Even like the worry of well wishes for a person can be a lot of pressure during a psychedelic experience. 

“Oh, how was it? Was it amazing? Was it life changing? Was it all that?” If it’s any less than that, then that creates a lot of pressure for the journeyer. And so, what I find one of the benefits, A, I just tell people just always have somebody around. 

There’s also a lot of personal right on solo experiences though coming from a person who has done a lot of solo experiences, because I truly just did not have people around me who I trusted like that. 

You can only go so far. There’s a percentage of you that holds back, so that you can take care of your needs. I find that in the right setting with the right people, and you’re creating a trusting and vulnerable and protected container, I call it, and many folks in this work call it, then you can go really deep. 

Then you can really lean into your shadow side stuff if that’s coming up for you. If you can lean into that grief or that trauma, you can lean into that joy and connectivity and all of that. But it’s very important that folks have the opportunity to move through their psychedelic experience in whatever way resonates with them, and that could look super weird, and that could not make a lot of sense for folks. 

So, sometimes when you have your friend or your best friend or whatever, they’re trying to hold a space for you but they’re like, “Is this dude having a seizure or is he having a somatic experience?” You know what I mean? 

Christine and Leah: Yeah. 

Jimmy: You should ask somebody who knows the difference between those things. 

Leah: Absolutely. 

Understanding the Fragility of Psychedelic Use

Jimmy: So, it’s tricky. In default, for sure, a family friend, somebody like that is better than nobody around. And then I think a further extension is for folks to really consider somebody who does this professionally. 

Now, that also ranges, whether they have licensure from a medical standpoint, a mental health standpoint, whether they’re more in the coaching aspect, whether they’re more self-taught, like myself, whether they come from a lineage of this work, whether they do have spiritual teachers or plant medicine teachers. 

So, it really ranges. So, my goal with psychedelic passage is to prove, “Hey, there is a space for this side too that can also run along against clinical medical or with clinical medical.” 

If people are just prescribed this, it cuts off a whole percentage of the population who could benefit. And then vice versa, if people are just running and gunning out there with like, “I’m a trip sitter, come and engage my service,” then there’s not a standard either. 

And so, that’s what I mean about the trickiness of the state of psychedelics, because there’s– I know I’m ranting a little, but I’ll share that. There’s this real self-interest for proponents of psychedelics to really cast it with this halo effect. 

“Oh, psychedelics are amazing, and it’s 20 years of therapy in one sitting.” But they don’t share in the Johns Hopkins trials that they’re going through 8 prep sessions to 16 prep sessions, and a whole bunch of integration sessions. 

Psychedelics are not for everybody. There are people who go through experiences, and they have some real challenging times in the months afterwards. And so, it’s just important to highlight that there are pitfalls to anything. 

There are pitfalls of psychedelic use, if it’s not supported, if you’re not screening and vetting, if you don’t have the right professional around you, if you get the dosage wrong, like, all of those things. We’re talking about real fragile stuff. 

We’re talking about real vulnerable parts of ourselves. And so, it’s something that we’re trying to do here at Psychedelic Passage. It’s not perfect, but we’re getting to support and serve a lot of people. 

Importance of Intention, Support, and Integration in Psychedelic Experiences

Leah: What I’m seeing a lot of– well, and what I think is important with people talking about it, they just think it’s like, “Oh, you take it and it fixes everything.” 

Christine: Yeah. 

Leah: We talk a lot about your intention behind it, having the support coming out of it, the integration process, how those are just as necessary, if not more important than the experience itself. 

So, I saw on your site that you guys work with people’s therapists in a way to help them integrate the process of what you’re maybe, I don’t want to call them guides now, because I’m like, “Oh, he doesn’t like calling them guides.”

[laughter] 

Jimmy: [crosstalk] –just have the inherent power dynamic. 

Leah: A facilitator. It does. You’re exactly right. We heard someone say one time, was it on our podcast? It was Eric said it. He said, “I don’t like to say guide, because the medicine is the guide.”

Christine: Right. You don’t want to influence them-

Leah: You shouldn’t be guiding anything.

Christine: -on anything, because it’s their experience and their journey. 

Leah: Right. So, a lot of times when people reach out and they’re asking like, “How do I do this? What can I do?” I’m like, “First off, the people around you are supporting what you’re doing, you need to make sure that you already know what it means to have to do the work, because this is not an easy process, and you have to have that support to fall back on.” 

So, I was very lucky in having a psychiatrist who was very well versed in psychedelics, and has worked with them for 30 plus years. So, he was great for integration. Not everybody has that. 

Jimmy: Yeah.

Leah: But if you guys are working with someone and they have a therapist or a psychiatrist, and you want to encourage them to use them, what does that look like? What does that dynamic look like for you? 

Flaws in the Current View of Therapy & Mental Health

Jimmy: Sure. We’re one of the few organizations out there now in the professional psychedelic services space, facilitation space that are mental health friendly. Also just acknowledging that there are a lot of folks who have been on medications for 30 years, have been through therapy for 30 years, and they’re feeling like, it’s not doing anything for me also, I acknowledge that. 

But when I talk to my mental health professional friends and therapist friends, they’re like, “Yeah, because we haven’t had any new innovations or anything for the past 30 years–” EMDR came around in, I think the 1990s and that might be one of the more modern approaches to it. 

So, I just recognize that even with the most well-intentioned mental health practitioner, there are just some inherent flaws in our view of therapy and mental health, because it’s rooted in pathology. 

It’s rooted in trying to find what’s wrong and trying to alleviate the symptoms, in which anybody who’s gone through a healing process at all, with or without psychedelics knows that there’s way more to it than that. 

And so, we’re very open– The whole thing is about personal choice. It’s about choosing what services you want around you, what type of support you want around you, what psychedelic medicine you want to engage with, how involved you want your therapist to be. 

And so, I’ve had folks have therapists sit in on preparation sessions. I’ve had folks have therapists sit in on integration sessions. I’ve held almost tag team integration processes with folks and their therapists. 

I’ve had a few brave souls actually have their therapists present during their experience as well. But that all has to feel really intuitively right, and that therapist has to feel okay with the potential of losing their licensure and all. There’s a lot of parameters there to decide on. 

But I find that a lot of the content that may arise during preparation ceremony integration can actually fuel a lot of breakthroughs for therapy. I also find it really important that the therapist is at least psychedelic friendly or at least has some experience with psychedelics. 

Nick, my fellow cofounder, best friend, he always shares like, “I wouldn’t want to learn how to fly a plane from somebody from a pilot who’s never flown before.” 

Leah: Absolutely. 

Jimmy: So, at least a mental health professional who has some of that. Luckily, a lot of mental health professionals are really eager and waiting for pathways for them to provide psychedelic assisted psychotherapy, which is very different from what we do and having their own experiential part of it. 

And so, that involvement can be really important. But to your point, the same way that I share with folks that psychedelics are not a replacement for your healing journey. They’re a catalyst for your healing journey. 

Christine: Yes. 

Jimmy: It’s the same thing with therapy or any other type of support resources where like, you’re still the one as the journeyer who needs to do the work. Like, you’re the only one who can– You were saying something about the plant medicine is the guide. And the model that I use, it’s actually the journeyer who’s the guide. 

The journeyer is the inner healer. I actually like to do it like this. The journeyer is the inner healer, and then the plant medicine is the potential teacher, and it’s about that communion of the two. It’s about unlocking your own inherent ability to heal through your communion with the plant medicine. 

And then the facilitator is like down here, just holding the whole space. And also, very tangibly removing distractions and things, so that you can stay focused on your experience, helping to support or redirect upon request, but really just to witness people’s processes. 

So, very sillily, somebody who is feeling time dilation during their experience and they’re like, “I’ve been really needing to pee and I’ve been really feeling like I’ve needed to pee for like eight hours, but I don’t know how long it’s been.” And I’m like, “Well, it’s been 15 minutes.” 

[laughter] 

Jimmy: “Let me just help you get up to go to the bathroom, so that you can dive back into your experience.” Some of those things can be really, really helpful. But I find above anything else, just somebody there to witness and to hold a safe, supportive, nonjudgmental space too. 

I think a really good friend of mine, Adam Rubin says like, “Lending people your calm, grounded nervous system also helpful in navigating these experiences.” So, I very much find short of other substances like MDMA, ketamine, sometimes. 

Some of those are conducive for therapy to happen during the experience. But very often, it’s about just letting the experience unfold, and then building support services around you of which therapy can be massively, massively helpful for folks. 

Christine: Now, speaking of MDMA and ketamine, you don’t just work with mushrooms. You work with all types of psychedelics, right, with your ceremonies?

Jimmy: Yeah. We’re basically trying to pioneer a legal harm reduction model, in which case for all of the clients that work with us, we don’t provide or source or do any of that drug trafficking side. 

For what it’s worth, I think that there’s a lot of intelligence around the medicine keeper also supplying the medicine, but we’re just not there yet as far as the legality in our society. And so, we don’t source any substances, which means that it’s up to the journeyer to source. 

Now, we can come in from a harm reduction standpoint, talk about potential dosage parameters, we can talk about testing substances, we can talk about making sure that the MDMA you receive is not lace with fentanyl, things like that, but it’s primarily the journeyer who has to source. So, psilocybin containing mushrooms ends up being the most accessible thing. 

And then there are folks who are able to source like MDMA or LSD. From time to time, we’ll get some folks who can source like smokable DMT, but folks who are interested in ayahuasca, I really reserve that for healing circles and community circles who have some type of a history and lineage there that medicine needs to be done in community and in specific containers. 

And then ketamine being a Schedule III narcotic means that it is available for off label use and prescriptions there. And so, that’s now where we’re starting to see ketamine clinics pop up. But then that’s one of the litmus tests for how prescriptions and psychedelic assisted psychotherapy might look like coming up. 

And there are other real novel psychedelic compounds and things like that. But primarily our facilitators should have first-hand experience with themselves with any particular substance and also firsthand experience supporting folks. So, 90% of it is psilocybin and then we get some sprinklings of MDMA, LSD, mescaline derivatives like 2C-B, people explorer like stuff like that too sometimes very rarely. 

Leah: Interesting, I did see on your map though, you guys don’t do it in Kentucky. [laughs] 

Jimmy: [laughs] 

Leah: See, that’s why earlier you were like, “You guys are in Kentucky.” I’m like, “Yeah, I know.”

Jimmy: [laughs] 

Christine: They’re in Iowa, but not Kentucky.

Leah: Which is where she’s from. 

Christine: Yeah. 

Leah: So, interesting. But how do you find these people? Because what if we knew some people here who would be willing to help Psychedelic Passage bring your services to Kentucky? 

Jimmy: Yeah. Well, I’ll just share that that map, it’s not the Bible. 

Christine:  [laughs] 

Leah: Okay. All right.

Jimmy: What we share there is, “Hey, here’s where our facilitators are at, and they’re not in every state. Here’s the areas that we’ve served in the past. 

Leah: Okay.

Jimmy: And then here’s areas that we may or may not go to,” of which there are certain states where just the risk and repercussions are higher, like, Utah, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee. 

They’re just more conservative as it relates to drug policy and things, because when folks engage in our services, there’s inherent risk. If you are just the possession of an illicit substance, whether you travel across state lines or not, there’s risk there. 

Until things become fully legalized or there are regulatory models for this type of work, it will continue to be so. So, we’re really thoughtful and mindful. 

Now, have I been to Utah holding ceremony? I definitely have. Have I been to very conservative states? Southern Illinois is another one of those. Indiana, I’ve been to some places where I’m like, “The culture is different out here.” 

[laughter] 

Christine: Culture. 

Jimmy: Yeah, culture. [chuckles] But for those who are really well meaning, all of our services start with connecting with a human. That is one of the core ways that we engage with folks, because a directory is not going to do it. 

There are folks who need to talk to a human to figure out how best to go about this type of work. And so, it’s very dependent. There are also folks who do want to travel towards to decriminalize areas like, Denver, California, Oregon, and whatnot. 

So, what I would share with folks is that, I am very thoughtfully expanding our facilitator network, knowing that there’s a lot more folks who are interested in this type of work with psychedelics, their own inner work catalyzed by psychedelics than there are space holders out there likely. 

Now, we’re not trying to be this exclusive elite, like best of the best, but myself and Nick, we personally vet every facilitator on a range of different things, their professional background, certifications, any trainings that they’re done, professional plant medicine, psychedelic work, their own plant medicine psychedelic work, their own inner healing and spiritual growth process, do I trust this person to hold down my soul in my most vulnerable moments? 

It’s a lot of those checks. And then also their ability to handle client relationships with integrity, to be responsive, to show up, do they have screening vetting onboarding processes, denial processes, what do their integration processes look like? So, that’s a lot of what we look for when we’re thinking about bringing on more facilitators to our referral network. 

Leah: Well, something that I have learned over the last few years is that not everyone is meant to hold space. Not everyone has the capacity to hold space for someone. In terms of harm reduction, you mentioned Zendo Project earlier and that’s been like a dream of mine to work for them or work with them. 

Jimmy: Well, you should come. 

Leah: Well, I did a couple of– [crosstalk] 

Jimmy: You should apply, I’ll put you out for that [crosstalk] or something. [laughs] 

Leah: I’ve thought about it. I’ve taken a few classes through DoubleBlind with their creator. I can’t remember her name because it’s been about a year, but the Zendo Project does like harm reduction at festivals. 

When my husband, he did psychedelics a little over a year ago for the first time, and I ended up– I trip sat for him, I was there for him. He didn’t want to do it with anybody else. The friends that he felt comfortable with, I’m like, “Absolutely not.” They’re not going to know what to– “If you start crying, they’re going to be like, ‘Dude, it’s not that bad. Come on, buck up.'” 

Christine: Well, there’s a lot of toxic masculinity, and they’re like-

Leah: Yeah.

Christine: -[crosstalk] baby, and all that. 

“Bad Trips” as Challenging & Misunderstood Experiences

Leah: It took a while for him to feel comfortable with me sitting there, just sitting there, just holding space. And I’m like, “I’m not facilitating anything. I’m not going to talk to you about anything. I’m just there. That’s it. That’s all. 

I’ll help you through it if it’s difficult or if you’re experiencing something difficult.” But I want to get your take on– I read a little bit about this on your site, but for those who haven’t, good trips and bad trips. 

Jimmy: Yeah. 

Leah: What’s your take on that? What do you think?

Jimmy: That’s the number one thing that people talk about is, I want to avoid a bad trip. And conversely, I ask them, “Well, how deep are you ready to go into your shadow side?” Because that’s not that pleasant, either. And so, we actually have a pretty good episode on– “pretty good,” I’m self-judging my own podcast. 

Leah: No. Plug it.

Jimmy: But we have a fairly good– We go into this about what bad trips mean and mitigating the chances of it. I’ll be very clear. The Zendo philosophy, there’s a lot of philosophy in this psychedelic space holding world that bad trips don’t exist. 

What they really are is they are challenging, difficult, misunderstood experiences, which I think that holds true. I’ll add an asterisk that bad trips do exist when it comes to a place of facilitator abuse, when it comes to a place of facilitators trying to impress upon you their own beliefs, or their own dogma, or trying to direct your psychedelic experience in some type of way. Those are bad experiences that can really traumatize you. So, we call those more adverse experiences. 

The notion of bad versus good is a judgment. The moment that we assign or categorize something with that judgment, it has a potential to negate any potential utility or benefit from those things. For me, personally that it’s actually in the bad trips where I’ve done the most healing. 

And so, the psychedelic medicine, especially with psilocybin, we share with folks that the medicine just like scans you a little and just takes a look and sees what you got going on under the hood, and it invites you into an experience of what you need at the time, not necessarily what you want. 

Also, I find that with the right support and with the right integration process, oftentimes the psychedelic medicine is not going to give you something that you can’t handle. Now whether you think you can handle it or not is a different story. 

And so, what I share with folks is the moment that you assign it as a bad trip, you’ve removed any possibility of healing, because what your mind is going to do is it’s going to categorize it as bad, it’s going to package it up, it’s going to put it on the shelf, it’s going to put it away. 

Now if you are approaching it with openness and being like, “Well, what is there to learn here? What is there to take away here,” even in really bewildering experiences that don’t make much sense. 

I find that some of the biggest areas of bad trips are people feeling like they’ll never return to normal, feeling like they’re timeless and they’re stuck in that space forever, or a lot of times with folks, here’s like 90% of bad trips is inner resistance. 

People who have some type of inner mechanism that’s trying to fight against the experience as opposed to being there to observe and witness the experience for what it is. And that’s super normal. We’re humans who are here to survive in these meat suits, and have homeostasis, and have a status quo. So, anything that shakes that system up can be really alarming. 

But if you are in a safe setting, and you’ve been working with a facilitator that you trust, and you’ve been doing prep, you’ve been identifying, that’s the other probably pitfall of potential for bad trips is that people get sidewinded or blindsided by content that they didn’t expect to come up. 

I’m like, “Well, if you’re in a preparation process where you’re excavating and you’re doing all that inventory, then likely you’re just going to know, ‘Oh, this thing is here. This might come up.'” And just knowing that might come up, you’re not totally shocked and surprised.

I share with folks that there’s a lot of utility, but the mind is very powerful. It can convince you in and out of anything. I have had folks on either side who have had very blissful, joyful, connected to everything experiences. 

And then they come out and they’re like, “No, I don’t need integration. I feel healed, I’m good.” And then they package it up, and they put it on a shelf, and they put it away, and then guess what happens? They fall right back into their patterns and habits. So, it’s the same thing with difficult, challenging, overwhelming experiences. 

So, it requires a lot of work up front. Like, I can’t teach somebody how to be present and witness, just their life and their experience of what’s coming up. I can’t teach somebody how to return back to their breath as a potential tool of navigating the experience. 

I can only talk about it. I can only highlight it as a potential. But people need to build in their own mechanisms in navigating those things. And in the history of human use of psychedelics, I’m talking probably thousands of years. Challenging, difficult, overwhelming trips are not only an integral part of psychedelic healing, they’re welcomed. They’re welcomed. 

If you imagine back 500 years ago, these psychedelic sacraments were held by your grandma. They were held by elders in the community. They’re baked in in these conversations since you’re a child. We don’t have that. We got some catching up to do in our society. And so, when you have a 20, 30 40– Actually, most of my clients skew in the 60s, 70s, 80s. 

Christine: Wow.

Jimmy: You got to do some catching up to coming into trust with the plant medicine, coming into trust with your own inner healer, coming into trust of your resilience to endure a challenging experience. Those things alone, just the fact that you survived a challenging and overwhelming experience, denotes that there’s some resilience in you. 

Christine: Right.

Jimmy: It’s really tricky because a lot of folks are like, “I want to avoid a bad trip,” and all that and I don’t want to leave them too much. But I’m like, “How much of that is actually true for you? How deep are you willing to go into your own healing,” which can be really messy and really scary and really alarming. At least I could speak for myself, I’ve had those moments, for sure.

Leah: I think we’ve definitely had the same type of moments. It’s not all butterflies and rainbows. 

Christine: No. 

Leah: There’s some really dark moments in healing. I don’t want to say that I ask for them, but I do know that we learn through contrast. And so, when it’s like somebody hitting a rock bottom, they’re hitting a rock bottom to propel themselves into something better if they can use it as that, as a catalyst. So, I see those dark moments. I don’t want to say I’ve had a bad experience, but I was stuck in a loop at one point in one of my experiences, and that was-

Jimmy: Oh, yeah.

Leah: -terrifying until I-

Christine: Surrendered?

Leah: -surrendered into it. And then the second that happened, the loop stopped. It was me just trying to control what was happening and realizing that there was no control over what was happening. 

Jimmy: Yeah.

Christine: Why do you think that we are such a society that struggles to let go with that? Because I struggled with that too. 

[laughter] 

Leah: I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know, where do we– [crosstalk] 

Jimmy: How much time you got? 

[laughter] 

Leah: I don’t know. What do you think? How can you condense that answer? 

Jimmy: Well, look like our whole society has been built upon control. 

Christine: Yeah.

Leah:  Oh.

Jimmy:  I’m a big fan of Hamilton, by the way, the musical. 

Christine: [laughs] 

Leah: Yes. [unintelligible [00:41:52] 

The Role of Societal Programming and Control

Jimmy:  I’ve been thinking a lot about [crosstalk] time. But the moment that western society was brought to this land, it’s all been about control, and it’s been about controlling beliefs, and it’s been about controlling the way that people live. 

For a time, the Puritan work ethic was the way to go. And then for a time, there was the capitalism of our society. And so, our whole society is baked into what people should believe and how they should live their lives. 

That’s a lot of social programming conditioning that comes down across a lot of generations. And so, when we look at our society now, of course, it makes sense, because what we value in our society is our ability to produce. That’s pretty much it. How much great work can we do? How much money can we make? Family that we can build, it’s all production. 

So, there’s much less emphasis on just being and that just being enough. There’s not a lot of like, it’s okay to just be. Like you were saying, during the pandemic, that resting was a really important thing for you. Well, resting is a part– There’s this great Instagram called The Nap Ministry, and they talk about napping and resting as defiance. 

It’s actually really wonderful. I would really highly go and check that out, because I’m like, “Yeah, that makes sense.” Because regardless of, if you work in an Amazon factory or if you work in an executive suite or whatever, you’re just there to produce.

And then we as humans are like, “Well, isn’t there something more than that? Why am I feeling this way? Why do I feel so disconnected to myself?” I think psychedelics can be one of those really, really impactful ways of that exploration. 

So, a lot of this is an uphill battle. It’s really, really tough for folks to find their own inner resourcing when they have family history on what they’re taught to believe, they have social dynamics on how to be a man in the society, how to be a woman in the society, how to be transgendered in the society, all of that. 

It’s all being told what you should do. And so, psychedelics are like, “Oh, I’m not being told what to do anymore,” and that can be really scary for folks realistically. [laughs] 

Christine: What was scary for me was like not having as much noise in my head afterwards. 

Leah: The quiet?

Christine: The quiet. Because all of the chaos or whatever that was going on in my head, it was a distraction to just sitting with myself. 

Navigating Fear and Discomfort with Quietude

Jimmy: Yeah. I have a deep fear of sensory deprivation tanks, mostly, because I have a fear somebody’s going to lock me in there. But then also, I recognize there’s this inherent uncomfortableness with quietude for me. When I do work with clients, one of the rituals that I hold is a fire ceremony which has a lot of different backgrounds and histories and traditions across many, many different cultures and countries and whatnot. 

The idea of the fire ceremony is in order to release something, in order to really cast something into the fire, it’s important to replace it with something. And so, when you are then devoid of the noise or the chatter or the self-talk and whatever, it’s important to find something else to replace it, because our mind builds these grooves. 

And so, if we don’t replace it with anything, we just fall right back into that groove and that pattern. So, I share that a lot with my clients in just the ceremony work and then also integration as well. 

Leah: I love that concept. 

Christine: Yeah.

Leah: I didn’t think about that. I want to rewind it just a little bit and touch on this for a second, because you were talking about pharmaceutical companies coming in and putting something addictive into these substances to make it, so it’s something to easily monetize it. 

This has come up a lot, because I think that people see what we’re doing, and this is just my own insecurities of people being like, “Well, isn’t she just replacing alcohol with mushrooms and MDMA? Aren’t you just replacing toxic with something else?” This is just like the inner critic in me coming down in me having this fear that that’s what people are saying. I realize that. 

But I’ve been wanting to for a while talk about that, because I’m not replacing anything. This isn’t something daily. This is something yearly, if that. I do it once a year as a large dose, and something recreationally every few months in smaller doses. So, I don’t know what would that look like, if the pharmaceutical companies come in and they’re like, “Here, take this every day,” how do you know when you’re supposed to do it again? 

Jimmy: Yeah. Well, I’ll share that psychedelics in general are non-addictive and non-habit forming. Meaning, when you have a big peak experience, there’s not really a desire to go and have it again, unless you’re in a container for it. Like, there are some ayahuasca circles where they drink several nights in a row, and that’s just a part of how they practice. 

Really what I hear in the root of your share is any type of external thing, substance, addiction, habit pattern as a replacement for our own inner work. I hold this philosophy that there is no external thing that can come in to replace. 

I don’t know, I have a pretty interesting relationship with food. And when I engage with food, I’m like, “Ah, I’m using this external thing to replace whatever it is.” So, that’s just baked into our society also. 

The whole production thing, well, the other side of producing is consuming. So, it’s how much do we consume. Can you be a really good consumer also? 

And so, I just recognize that there’s a lot of paradigms that are beyond just people’s inner resilience and inner decision making on whether to have that glass of wine or whether to whatnot. 

And so, I don’t necessarily have answer to this, but where I’ve arrived at is that, yes, there are pharmaceutical companies trying to create additives or different chemical formulations to psychedelics and psychedelic analogues. 

There are folks out there who are trying to strip out the psychedelic experience from that, like, how do we just give you the benefit of microdosing without you experiencing the high? 

That’s a direction that some people are going. The antidote that I have for that are two things. One is, so long as we don’t strip out the sacredness of this use of psychedelic medicines. If psychedelics are viewed as something sacred, then that will– 

This is probably a little idealistic, but I hope that that will counter somebody just taking a pill every day. But somebody taking a pill every day is an issue more than just psychedelics. 

That’s an issue of our society, regardless whether it’s for mental health or rheumatoid arthritis or whatever. And so, I hope that the sacredness remains as psychedelics become more mainstream and become more in the spotlight. 

I think the other part of it is community. I think community is a really, really strong antidote for just having the stuff in your medicine cabinet that you take every day and you don’t really talk about it. 

How often are friends talking to other friends about, “Yeah, I’m on 37.5 mg of Effexor, and I take Lexapro, and I do this.” We don’t talk about that stuff. But then we’re more open to being like, “I had a really impactful psychedelic experience, and if you’re open to it, let me tell you about it.” 

So, that is also really, really important because then people have some comparison. So, I hope that somebody who takes a microdose and they’re just using it for the symptomatic stuff. 

[chuckles] You had said something earlier about people having psychedelic experiences and then you were like, “Well, not everybody should be a facilitator and a guide.” 

There is this thing where people want to shout it from the rooftops whenever they have a meaningful psychedelic experience and they’re like, “This is my calling. This is what I want to do. This is the way that I serve the world.” And I also hold the space that not every one of those folks who have that should be doing this facilitation and space holding. 

However, it’s important to hear other people’s stories, so that they can direct your own relationship and use with psychedelics. And so, the best way is embodiment. 

When I see people go through big transformation and changes during integration, they’re like, “Well how do I convince my husband to do this? How do I convince my best friend to do this and whatnot?” 

And I’m like, “Well, you telling them to do it’s not going to do anything.” The best thing that you could do is embody the change, is embody the change. And so, let’s see how it flies. 

I would venture that somebody who’s taken a pill for 90 days and having no sacredness in their experience, going to be way different than somebody who’s maybe having that one experience a year or whatever. 

Let’s see what turns out, because I would venture to say that the person who has sacredness and has [unintelligible [00:52:04], they got a way, way more enriching experience than somebody. And then that person who’s taking that pill there, they’re going to be like, “There’s something missing here.” 

And so, I hope this is very idealistic. I hope that that community, I hope that sacredness creates some insulation, creates some barriers against the hyper consumerism, hyper capitalization, which can also be a part of it. 

Look, it’s also human right. If a high performing exec does just want the performance enhancing, fine. I respect and honor that too. But I think that if the sacredness is stripped out of it, we just lose out on so much of the potential for human growth here. 

Leah: I think we all went through that. I did my first time, I was like, “Why is no one talking about this?”

Jimmy: [laughs] Yeah.

Leah: And then I realized, not everybody wanted to hear about it. So, I got quiet real quick. [laughs] 

Jimmy: Yeah.

Leah: But it was kind of that– [crosstalk] 

Jimmy: The worst thing you could do is share your experience with somebody who’s going to judge it and who’s not ready to hear it. 

Leah: Absolutely. 

Jimmy: [crosstalk] 

Christine: Yeah, we both learned that the hard– [laughs] 

Leah: We both learned that the hard way. 

Jimmy: Wow.

Leah:  But it was really learning to walk the walk that allowed us to get to a place where we’re like, “You know what? We’re going to talk about it anyway and you don’t have to listen if you don’t want to, but we’re here if you want to.”

Christine: Yeah, and that’s why we started this. 

Leah: But what you’re saying walk the walk and that’s really enough I think for other people to be curious. 

Christine: Yeah.

Leah: I want you to plug yourself. Tell us where we can listen to your podcast, and tell us how we can be in touch with Psychedelic Passage, and how our listeners can maybe find a sitter in their area who is willing to hold space for them while they journey. 

Jimmy: Yeah, I’ll share first and foremost that, we’re not really here to convince anybody of anything or sell anybody in anything. I think the exploration of psychedelics as a part of your own process needs to be a very deeply personal decision for those who are feeling that readiness or feeling that calling. 

Our website is psychedelicpassage.com. We have paid consultations with folks where you can get on the phone with a human, and talk about your needs, and all of those things. Our goal is to A, first and foremost, just inform folks. 

I think the more informed and educated people are on their options around what this psychedelic work looks like. We’re just one way, by the way. There’s a lot of other different modalities and practices that really, really range and we’re just one model of that. 

That’s probably the best way to engage and learn about our services, but that’s not for everybody. And so, one of the big goals that we have is to just put a lot of information out there for sake of community, for sake of education. 

So, we have a pretty active blog on our website, a ton of free information. You can spend like hours and hours and hours on there. From time to time, we’ll hold workshops and things for folks, and then our podcast is something a little bit newer. 

We launched that like two months ago, I think. We do episodes weekly, 30 minutes episodes. I think we have like 9 or 10 that are out there right now, and you can find that on all streaming platforms. 

It’s just the Psychedelic Passage podcast. Apple Podcast, iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRADIO, Amazon, all of the formats. They’re our production team, and then they host our podcast through there. 

So, we cover a wide range of topics but it’s really about facilitation, it’s really about the journeys themselves. We have episodes from mitigating bad trips to ego death to integration. It’s been really fun. 

We’ve had a great, great response from our community, and people sharing that, it’s been really helpful. So, I hope that anybody who feels called to find some value there too. 

Leah: I love your website, by the way. It’s what you’re saying, you’re not just like selling people anything. You’re very informative. You have so many frequently asked questions. I went down that rabbit hole the other day, going through all the questions asked. But you put a lot of information out there that isn’t necessarily just from you. You outsource information and put it out there for people to find easily through your site, which I love, because it’s not just about you. 

Jimmy: Yeah, we’re very lucky to have some great writers. We’re very lucky to be in collaboration with other folks who are putting out a lot of great content and information out there. Our site is actually going through a whole rebrand, and change, and all that. 

Christine: Oh, nice.

Jimmy: So, I hope that– it skews a little masculine. There’s a lot of blue on our site as well, but I hope that it continues to enrich people’s process and experience. 

Christine: Well, and then I saw too that you have programs for people who are low income or black, indigenous people of color. So, it’s not something where I guess you are willing to work with people-

Leah: And meet them where they’re at. 

Christine: -and meet them where they’re at? 

Jimmy: Well, yeah, the number one thing that I share is I don’t want finances to be the main reason why people don’t get the support that they need. 

Christine: Because it can be. 

Access, Diversity, and Financial Assistance in Psychedelic Support

Jimmy: Also people use finances as quite a scapegoat. Maybe they’re not ready to explore the depths of themselves like, “Ah, it’s a money thing. I can’t do it.” All good. But for those folks who are really earnest, who are really ready to put in the work, their own inner work through the use of psychedelics, we do a range of things.

We’re, first and foremost, on a tiered pricing system. So, that just helps to just alleviate some budgetary issues and financial assistance, payment plans. I’ve had former clients sponsor future clients. I’ll always explore whether I can do pro bono work or heavily discounted work for the BIPOC community. 

The affinity side has been something that we’ve been developing more. I do want to find more facilitators of color, of different ethnicities, of different backgrounds. Some folks that we’re not in our network that but were connected to who focus on the LGBTQIA+ community, folks who are like end-of-life doulas. 

We’re really trying to expand out those services. I find that you don’t always have to have had the same shared life experience as folks to hold space for them. I work with a lot of women who deal with sexual trauma, and domestic abuse, and all that. 

And after conversations, they’re like, “I just feel like you’re the right person for me.” But we want to put some options out there. We want to put some options out there for folks. 

So, that all comes down to access and accessibility. People having a personal choice. Maybe they do want to work with one of our facilitators who does have a mental health background. 

Maybe a facilitator who does have history with eating disorders. It really ranges beyond just ethnicity and socioeconomic background, but that’s very important to me. And, yeah, we’re trying our best. We get to serve a lot of great folks. 

I’ve served Mormons, military leaders, attorneys, judges, moms, folks who work at Dollar Tree, quite a range of folks. And so, people in their 80s, 20s, it’s been a really beautiful thing to watch unfold. 

I sometimes have to remember like, why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s just such a dope reminder when I’m like, “Oh, that’s really cool that that person didn’t have any opportunity for support and access, and now they do.” 

Leah: Yeah.

Christine: Yeah. So, I love that. I love that a lot. 

Leah: Healing does not discriminate. Neither does trauma. [laughs] 

Jimmy: Yeah, that’s true. 

Leah: Yeah.

Christine: That’s very true. 

Leah: Everybody needs a little bit of healing. Did you have any more questions–? [crosstalk] 

Jimmy: Yeah, and admittedly, there are just some parts of our society that don’t have access to mental health and don’t have access to financial assistance and like. I don’t know if therapy is really prevalent in, let’s say, the Vietnamese community, for example. 

Christine: It’s not in the Marshallese community at all. 

Jimmy: Yeah. [laughs] 

Christine: So, that’s why I brought that up. 

Leah: Yeah, for sure. We have one last question, and we have been closing out with this question the last several episodes. Do you want to ask it? 

Christine: Go for it. 

Leah: All right. Out of all of your experiences, if you could take away one lesson that was the most meaningful in how you would share it with the world, [Christine laughs] what would it be? 

Jimmy: [laughs] I’m already smiling. I’m like, “Oh, man.” 

[laughter] 

Jimmy: [crosstalk] –of a question towards the end. Can you say that again, so that I can [crosstalk] respond? 

Leah: Process? Okay. Out of all of the psychedelics that you have partaken in, all of the lessons that you have learned, if you had to share and pick one of them to share with the world to let them know how great it was for you or the medicine works for you, what would that one lesson be, the one takeaway? 

Jimmy: Wow. 

Leah: I know that’s a hard one. 

Jimmy: Yeah. [chuckles] I do share with some folks about an experience where I was able to really work through some generational curses of my relationship with my father and paternal lineage stuff. It’s a wild, wild story. 

Actually, surprisingly, I’m having a documentary filmed about me from the NYU Journalism School, which actually talks about that quite a bit. So, that’ll be coming out in December. I’m very private, I forgot that was even a thing, but I remember– [crosstalk] 

Leah: Oh, yeah.

Christine: I want to hear about that. Where can we watch that? 

Jimmy: That’s coming out in December, I think. I have no idea when it’s coming out. 

Leah: Okay. Well, we’ll follow you. We’ll post it whenever you–[crosstalk] 

Embracing the Feeling of Enoughness

Jimmy: [crosstalk] -experience where I basically really broke the curses of the trauma and abuse of my father, and then the trauma and abuse that he experienced from his father, and his father, and his father, and his father, and it went back like, I don’t know, thousand years or something. 

It was hard to explain. The one thing that really calls to me that I want to share in response to your question is really embodying and acknowledging this feeling of enoughness that just the mere existence of me on this Earth is enough. 

I find that that’s 95% of the actual core reasons why people suffer in the way that they do, just recognizing that, “Oh, I’m not enough, so I got to go out and seek these things or I got to find a relationship or find a substance or find something to replace that.” 

It took a very, very long time and continually so, because once you reach a place where you understand that true learning of your enoughness, it then gets tested. Then life tests you and you’d be like, “Are you sure you’re enough? Are you sure? Are you sure you’re enough?”

There’s all these reasons why you can convince yourself that you’re not enough and what you’re doing is not enough. I really feel that psychedelics is one way of the exploration of that enoughness. 

For me, it was through my own really challenging life and then my own psychedelic exploration that really hammered that home for me. In that seat of enoughness is where all my gifts come from. It’s where all the choices on how I show up in this world, comes from that enoughness. 

Now, of course, there’s times where I have where I’m in a state of need and I’m in a state of lack and I’m going to– all of that stuff. But at the core, it’s just returning to that home of enoughness. It’s been like the dopest thing in my life, hands down. 

Leah: I love that. It’s a different answer every time, which is crazy. 

Christine: I know.

Leah: I love it. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us today, Jimmy. I know you’re probably really busy, but we appreciate sitting with you and talking with you. I love what you’re doing. I love what you and Nick are doing with Psychedelic Passage. Super excited about that documentary coming out. [laughs] 

Christine: I know. Shoot me an email. Let me know, so that we can watch it. 

Jimmy: Yeah, thank you. It’s been really an honor to be here. I hope that any of your listeners, your community are getting value out of me just ranting for an hour or whatever. 

Leah:Oh, they totally– 

Christine and Leah: Yeah. 

Christine: They definitely–[crosstalk] 

Jimmy: Yeah, I’m excited for that documentary too. I keep forgetting. It’s been very surreal. It’s a real exposure of my life and how I got to this work. We get to interview some of my clients and their journey and their process, some of their therapists. 

We have folks who have gotten off of meds after being on them for 30 years. There’s some awesome, awesome, awesome stories in there. I just keep forgetting, because I’m trying to approach it all from a non-egocentric way, so I just forgot. So, [laughs] thank you for letting mention it. It’s been a real– [crosstalk] 

Leah: Yeah, absolutely. 

Jimmy: Yeah, it’s been a real honor.

Leah: You are more than enough. [laughs] 

Jimmy: Ah, thank you. Yeah, it’s been a real honor to be here and be in community with you both. So, thank you.

Leah: Thank you. And for our listeners, find us on Instagram @seeyouontheothersidepodcast, and we will see you on the other side.

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