“Psychedelic Journeys: From Recreational to Therapeutic Use” takes a deep dive into the evolution of our co-founders’ psychedelic use–from recreational users to therapeutic practitioners. They share how their journeys have shaped who they are as facilitators and as human beings.
They commence the discussion by exploring their initial experiences with these powerful substances – recounting their unguided and naive ventures, expressing what they would have done differently, and revealing the pivotal lessons learned.
They shed light on the stark contrast between recreational and therapeutic psychedelic experiences. The narrative takes a turn when they delve into their evolution towards intentional use.
Listen to Nicholas Levich speak about his sources of inspiration for more profound experiences, while Jimmy Nguyen shares his secret to maintaining positive changes – tuning into his inner integrity.
By unveiling their journey, filled with challenges and triumphs, they underscore the importance of structured ceremonial containers for psychedelic use.
The episode concludes with an insightful reminder about the now readily available resources and support systems for exploring psychedelic medicine.
Episode 47: Psychedelic Journeys: From Recreational to Therapeutic Use
Jimmy: Welcome to the Psychedelic Passage podcast. My name is Jimmy Nguyen, I’m joined here as always by Nick Levich. Well, maybe there’ll be a day where we’ll have solo hosting, or maybe- [crosstalk]
Nick: Solo in store.
Jimmy: -whatnot, but you get both of us today. But thank you for joining us. We are going to switch gears a little bit in that– we just feel so grateful that we have a steady group of listeners and folks who move through every episode on our podcast.
As we’re sitting earlier thinking about, “Okay, what topic do we pick? What juicy thing are we going to talk about?”, we realized that we haven’t talked about ourselves a lot–
And so we are going to talk about the personal shares and lessons from our own journeys and psychedelic experiences today. We’re going to freestyle our conversation a little bit and hope that folks get some entertainment, I think, from our shares and stories.
But then, as always, trying to find parallels into, how does this align with the way that we show up in the world, our service? And in a way of telling our stories, where it’s tangible and actual, maybe there’s a takeaway for you.
To provide some context, Nick and I, we’re in our mid to early 30s. We’ve each probably had like a decade and a half foray into psychedelics. Much of it in the beginning was very unstructured, very impromptu, very unintentional.
Over the years, it has turned into our relationship with plant medicines and fungi medicines today. So, let’s jump into it. Do you want to tell me, Nick, about your first, I guess, significant psychedelic experience and just whatever comes off the top of your mind with that?
Nicholas Shares His First Psychedelic Experience
[00:02:07] Nick: Yeah, the one caveat I want to give before we jump into this is I think a lot of our shows up to this point have been very conceptual, theoretical, implementation based.
One of the pieces of feedback that we’ve gotten actually from some of our internal team members is like, “What might be helpful is if you guys share some personal stuff so that folks can kind of piece some of this together under the context of an actual experience?”
That’s our goal with this episode, is to get a little bit more personal and anecdotal with how this shows up and how we’ve navigated what we’ve learned. I can definitely recall my very first psychedelic experience and– [crosstalk]
Jimmy: I love this one. I [crosstalk] the one that you’re telling. [laughs]
Nick: Yeah, I was 19 at the time. I was in college, I was with a whole bunch of fraternity brothers and essentially, they had gotten an ounce of golden teacher mushrooms.
We’re like, “Hey, there’s eight of us, let’s each eat an eight and go to the park and hang out for the day.” Now, mind you, as I’m saying this out loud, I’m going, “What? For your first time, that’s what you’re going to do? Why? Did anyone tell you what to expect here?”
The answer to all that is no. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, what I had signed up for, where this was all going, how psychedelics work.
I had no idea how to navigate. For the reference, an eighth is three and a half grams, which is a healthy dose for a first-time journey and is in that medium to high dose journey range.
We make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and just stick the [Jimmy laughs] mushrooms on there, which is least pleasurable way to consume these things. They get all stuck in your teeth and stuff, but we eat them and we go to the park.
And about, I don’t know, maybe 45 minutes to an hour after ingestion, I noticed that a bunch of the guys are throwing balls and frisbees and sitting in lawn chairs and hanging out.
And within minutes, I am rolling around on a blanket on the ground listening to the grass grow. And I’m like, “Okay, something’s happening here.” I had people check in on me. They’re like, “Nick, are you okay?” I remember I couldn’t even form a sentence.
All I could do was hold a thumbs up. So I had the awareness that they were kind of talking to me, but I also had the awareness that my brain was not functioning normally.
Like, I was having visuals of the grass breathing and interesting tones in my ears. I knew nothing about what was happening to me at the time. It was just a weird experience. And I made it through, so to speak.
I don’t remember a lot of the details of the journey itself, but when I got to the other end, I remember we did have an intentional sharing circle, come down process thing. I remember thinking, “Oh, this is really nice.”
Like, processing the experience, talking about what everyone went through. And then what I distinctly remember is we went out to dinner after, and it was just a social dinner in town.
I remember feeling better, and I couldn’t put my finger on why or how or the method of action or anything like that, but I just remember feeling this overwhelming sense of the slate was wiped clean, like I had hit the reset button.
In hindsight, now I’m like, “Oh, well, no sh*t.” Knowing everything that I know about how this process works now, I’m like, “Yeah, that makes perfect sense.”
But at the time, very unusual because no one told me that that was a potential outcome or possibility. I mean, this was all rooted in what I would call recreational use and consciousness exploration.
Jimmy: That’s amazing. What were your biggest takeaways out of that first experience? Besides the slate being wiped, like, you’re noticing this clearing, maybe?
Nick: Well, I think my takeaway is that there was just more than meets the eye. There was more of a story to what those medicines do, how they work.
There was clearly more than meets the eye from the way that I had perceived our default reality and then the way that I perceived it under the influence.
And also that those are not substances to be messed with. I had a level of respect afterward where I was like, “Oh, that’ll smack you up.”
Jimmy: Yeah, the reverence to the power. [laughs]
Nick: Right. Because I was under the impression that this was going to be fun. I’ll tell you right now, it was not particularly fun for me.
I mean, I was incapacitated for three to four hours in a public place, and thankfully I had friends around, but yeah, I was in a very vulnerable position in the middle of a park. [laughs]
Jimmy: God forbid you got to get up and make your way to the bathroom or the porta potty or something like that.
Jimmy: Which leads us to my next thing. What were your three notes for next time? Your three things that you would have done differently or would have done better?
Nick: Well, I didn’t really have the vocabulary for it at the time, but I think this is when I started to think about the concept of intentionality. Like, why would one do this? In what setting would one do this? What’s the point of this? Is there a way to do it better?
I just started to contemplate how we went about it. Ultimately, the only reason that you and I know how to work with these medicines now is because we’ve had a lot of reps. And a lot of reps ranging from totally unstructured like I just described, all the way to full-blown ceremonial.
But that was one of those experiences that helped me build the map for how to navigate altered states of consciousness. Like it was my first data point as I started building this internal map of how to navigate.
But it took me hundreds of follow-up experiences to be able to continue developing that map. I mean, think about how many different directions and trajectories a journey could take.
Jimmy: Yeah, you’ve come a long way.
Nick: Yeah. Exactly.
Jimmy: [laughs] -from that first time watching grass grow in a park.
Nick: Yeah. 19. Not knowing any better. I thought I was going to go have fun, and I ended up regressing into this weird childlike nonverbal state, just rolling around on a blanket.
Jimmy: Which for some folks, I mean, the first experience can be fun and joyful. But I think with what you said about knowing the power [laughs] of these medicines is that, yes, it can be fun, and also you can drop into an experience like you’re describing–
Or a range of 40, 50, maybe 100 different other [laughs] expressions or ways. Being prepared for that, I think you probably would have benefited from being in a private space.
Nick: Probably. Yeah.
Jimmy: [laughs] [crosstalk] Dinner afterward seemed like a lot also.
Nick: Well, dude, we were like, drinking. It’s like college. I just started having beers again or whatever. I don’t know if that’s the move.
In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have done that, and I would have honored the gravity of what I had gone through earlier that day. But that’s the problem. When you don’t know any better, you don’t know.
Nick: And so, for me, it was still very much like a party orientation. Now when I wear my facilitator hat and I look back at that, I’m like–
“Well, dude, you had a massive journey experience and then just did your best to integrate it, but ultimately brushed a lot of it off.”
Jimmy: Yeah. A lot of confusion on your mind and your body. Well, I think the interesting thing, and I hear it in your subtext, is that when you said that it really taught you or got you on this path of intentionality, is likely that experience needed to happen that way–
So you can have the juxtaposition to be like, “Oh, okay, now I know what it’s like to have this unstructured, unkempt, in public, needs not taken care of type of experience.” And, “Oh, okay, I made it through that.”
Jimmy: [laughs] Now I can see what the alternative is.
Nick: Right. I’m curious about you, though. I mean, what was your first one like?
Jimmy Shares His First Psychedelic Experience
[00:10:40] Jimmy: Yeah, so I’ve been thinking about this in my mind when I asked you the question. So, the first real psychedelic that I had was DXM, which is the active ingredient in–
Nick: Cough syrup.
Jimmy: [crosstalk] cough suppressant, which is a psychedelic in itself. But I really wouldn’t say that was an altered state of consciousness, that was more of like a bodily thing. And also, I was young and trying to get high and have fun and things like that.
Besides cannabis, I experimented with MDMA at a young age when I was 18. I’ve shared this with folks in the past, but that was a time in my life where I was quietly suffering a lot.
When I had MDMA purely in a party setting, like rural Indiana, it was the first time that I had this really good and positive feeling for no reason. And I’ll tell you this one kind of thing.
We show up at this house and everybody is on MDMA, and it was funny, we were outside on this lawn. There were people outside, definitely like a party type of environment. There was this guy, there was a light shining inside, there was a window.
And the window, the light was shining onto the lawn, and we were all just sitting here, just everybody doing their thing. And then this one guy was like, “Hey everybody, let’s go stand in this light.”
You get a group of like 10 to 12 people all huddled in together, like, standing in this light. I don’t know why it stuck out to me, it was like so silly. But it was the first time where I was like–
That’s so cool that this individual had the power to do that based off of just some silly thing that he had in his mind. It started to make me think about what’s possible for us to create and for us to do.
Fast forward a year and a half later, I had my first psilocybin experience and it was a group of a lot of people, about 30 of us.
Nick: Oh, my God. [laughs]
Jimmy: And we were all in one really, really big house, you can imagine. I look back now the chaos that ensued– [laughs]
Nick: Was this like a fraternity house?
Jimmy: Yeah, this was exactly in a fraternity house. We had like the whole house and there was a group of us and we all timed it out and so on and so forth.
But I hadn’t eaten or anything. It was the first time that I had been introduced to looping. I had to play the same songs over and over and over and over again for about an hour and a half.
Nick: Do you know how big of a dose you took when you did this?
Jimmy: Yeah, I probably ended up doing about four grams.
Nick: So, that’s a healthy dose for the first time.
Jimmy: And then also drank orange juice with it, which at the time we didn’t know what that did or didn’t do, but it was something that we had heard of. It’s really interesting. It’s also the time that I discovered totems.
So something very funny happened where every single individual on their own device ended up coming into some type of an object or something that a person would keep with them through the entire trip. A friend of mine had a straw that he was chewing on.
I had another friend who hung onto a broom for like six hours during his [Nick laughs] experience. And I forget what mine was. It was like a coin or something.
I see everybody walking around with these little items and objects and these little totems, which is what I do in ceremony now, which is gift somebody a little trip companion or a little like hand stone or something like that, where that originated from.
I’d say probably the most interesting part of that experience was there came to this point where I was talking to a friend and he had a lot of high and big energy.
Like he was like running around and jumping around and he was definitely in a play childlike type thing, and I looked– and we kind of just look at each other for a moment.
I forget who said it first, but we looked at each other and we were like, “Nothing matters.” And then there were like 5 or 10 seconds where we were kind of sad about that.
We’re sitting there like, “Nothing matters.” And then about like 10 seconds later we were like, “Wait, nothing matters.” And it was the most freeing feeling that I’d ever felt in my life.
It was almost like this pressure got taken off and that you can just be a kid and run around and play and whatnot. That was a really significant experience that really opened the door with my exploration into psilocybin.
And then over the course of the next two to four years, I was having a lot of solo experiences because I realized that this is probably not something that I want to be doing in a large group.
And so, I started to have solo experiences. And then over time, I found that people wanted to have their first experience with me.
That was a big part of my college, which opened up all of this work that we do now. The one thing that I also realized about this first experience was just the lack of acknowledgment or integration or any follow-up.
Like here were these 30 people that we had this common shared experience with and it was relegated to, “Oh, that was a fun Saturday afternoon.”
Jimmy: And nobody really talked about it anymore after that.
Nick: For those that don’t know if anyone’s listening, do you want to describe looping and then how that showed up for you?
Jimmy: Yeah. Looping is a phenomenon that can show up in psychedelic experiences and then other altered states of consciousness where there’s some type of verbal mental, like a thought pattern or some type of action that happens continuously in a loop.
There’s a lot of theories about what looping is. Some folks believe that it’s a way for your mind to be consciously processing something while you’re subconsciously and unconsciously processing something else.
Some folks believe that it is like a regressionary tool, which then loops back and links into something in your life or an action or event or something. Looping can be really common, whether it’s a phrase that somebody is repeating over and over and over again.
Like, I know one of my explorations into psychedelics. The movie Pineapple Express had just came out, and I decided to eat mushrooms. Literally for the entire experience I was just saying Pineapple Express, Pineapple Express, Pineapple Express- [crosstalk]
Nick: Oh, my God.
Jimmy: -over and over and over again. It made complete sense to me, in my mind, and my friends are looking around like, “What’s going on here?” [chuckles] You know what I mean?
Nick: For sure. So, the reason I wanted to touch on this is because we did a Reddit AMA and Ask Me Anything last week. And someone asked about looping. It was like, “What do you do if someone’s looping in a journey?” And the overwhelming consensus is let them do it.
Jimmy: Yeah. [crosstalk] -up a lot in the harm reduction world and the festival world where folks can go into pretty serious loops and then you need some support.
What I find is there’s this process that’s happening that you can’t explain and you might not know the immediate results or the immediate outcome, but the best is to find an environment where it’s normalized and acceptable for somebody- [crosstalk]
Jimmy: -process their loop. And so, I didn’t have that during my first couple of experiences.
Nick: What was your totem?
Jimmy: What was it? I forget. This is so funny. I really, really forget. Though I would make up things. There was a time where I was-
Really altered in one of these early experiences, maybe not this one, but all I could do was roll up a paper towel into [crosstalk] clench thing and that’s what I had as my totem that guided me through.
I think a lot of it was really just having any type of thing or totem. But it’s really interesting how it’s all evolved over time. Like another thing that I really noticed in my early psychedelic experiences, especially with psilocybin–
Is I always got this sense or this feeling that everybody knew that I was on mushrooms, regardless of whether I had said anything or verbally or not, and that everybody knew and it was not okay.
For a long time in a lot of my first experiences, a lot of it was navigating what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable in doing. How can I be socially acceptable here while I’m having an experience that’s really hard to describe to folks?
Nick: Okay. Yeah.
Jimmy: That’s where a lot of the philosophy comes up about allowing people the freedom and the space and the non-judgmentalness to go through their process and the work that we do. But maybe that brought something up for you there. [laughs]
Nick: Dude, after that first experience that I described earlier, there was a whole series of really, the remaining college years, like three more years where–
We would eat mushrooms and go to house parties or eat mushrooms and go to the bar, which literally, once again, as I’m saying this out loud right now, I’m like, “What a dumb thing to do.”
But this was how I started to orient myself around how these medicines work and what’s going on. And I just remembered, we’d be at a house party and a couple of the other friends of mine that dosed were dancing, socializing, hanging out, whatever–
And I just remember feeling like, “I needed to excuse myself.” I was like, “This is not where I’m supposed to be right now.”
I feel more comfortable in the corner exploring the recesses of my mind than I do trying to pretend that I’m normally functioning and at a house party and enjoying it. My ability to socialize was inversely related to the dose that I took.
Jimmy: Yeah, exactly. You’re there where everyone around you is using psychedelics for a specific intent and context and there’s a set of socially acceptable things that can come from that.
You’re supposed to be laughing, giggling, dancing, a ball of energy and you’re sitting there having a deeply introspective moment, which of course is super meaningful and beneficial, but you’re like, this isn’t– [crosstalk]
Nick: “I’m in the wrong environment.”
Jimmy: And this isn’t socially acceptable. That’s where a lot of this started for me, was realizing that people do have just different experiences.
We focus a lot on challenging or overwhelming and whatever. And it may not even be that. It may just be a deeply introspective experience, but you find yourself in a public setting where a lot of feelings and emotions come up.
It was me finding myself in places of supporting these folks in these settings that really showed me the power of, I think, companionship through these experiences.
I’ve fumbled and bumbled a lot through this early experience, trying to fix, trying to help, trying to relieve, trying to all that. And I realize all that you need to do is see somebody and witness them and accept them for whatever it is they’re going through.
That itself goes a really, really long way. Fast forward, I don’t know, 150 and 200 psychedelic experiences later, over a decade and a half, and that’s what’s– [crosstalk]
Nick: Well, that’s what I want to stress here is to anyone that’s listening, we’re talking about these experiences. And this happened in 08, 09, 2010, this is a long time ago. At the time, there was very little information available around harm reduction, preparation, integration.
These were not common words, nor was it common knowledge to know that was a part of this whole thing. I think what started to change for me, and I’m curious for you, but basically, once I got out of college, I somehow got introduced to Terence McKenna.
And I know we’ve talked about him on other episodes, and regardless of personal views, he was one of the vocal proponents of more structured, intentional use and truly understanding the medicine– [crosstalk]
Transitioning From Recreational to Intentional Use
[00:24:01] Jimmy: Oh, I remember your first time going for a heroic dose. [laughs]
Nick: Right, but also remembering knowing how to work with it. And so, essentially what I did was I self-taught in the sense that I listened to as many of these Terence McKenna lectures as I could get my hands on, where he’s talking about psychedelics, what they do.
It was the first time I had some sort of framework orientation around how to actually navigate altered states because prior to that, my ability to navigate was if this is too hard, crack a beer, and just wash it down with some booze.
Which also isn’t like, I would never give myself that advice now. But at the time that was like the one tool I had was like, “Okay, well, if this gets challenging or uncomfortable, just pound a Bud Light.”
So, fast forward to this kind of Terence McKenna experience, I listened to as many of these lectures as I got my hands on, and one of the things he talks about is if you want to truly understand how mushrooms work and experience them fully.
He’s like, “You take five grams alone in a dark room fasted by yourself.” Now, I don’t advise this to anyone, especially not under the context of harm reduction or first-time journeyers.
I’m really grateful that I had a number of experiences under my belt at the time before I did this, but I got smacked up. And I just remember thinking, like, I might be dying right now.
I had never felt so incapacitated and out of my body that I wasn’t even really sure where I was or what was happening. But I remember tears were just streaming down my face.
I didn’t even feel like I was crying, but it’s like that sensation of looking over, rolling over, and the pillows soaked. I’m like, “Oh, man.” My body is doing stuff.
It was the first time I remember having what I now know to be somatic releases, which are like these trembling, shaking, convulsing, tearing up, yawning.
All I had playing was this, like, Zen meditation music, which I don’t know if you guys have ever listened to that, but it never stops, and it never starts.
Jimmy: It’s just background, it just keeps eternally flowing. [laughs]
Nick: It’s just eternal flowing.
Jimmy: Timeless. [laughs]
Nick: Timeless and infinite. I remember just being in this cocoon in a bed, under blankets, just in a cocoon.
What was really interesting is I still remember to this day, it was the first time I felt I’d ever had night vision where your pupils are so dilated and you’re so sensitive to light that your ability to see in the dark is extremely heightened.
I was deep, deep, deep in it for a good four hours. Thankfully, on the back end of that, I was able to process a little bit with a friend.
But it was the first time I remember just feeling totally wrecked the following day after a journey as well, where I was like, “Oh, stuff happened, and I’m tired, my body is depleted. I need time to recover and reorient.”
Jimmy: Yeah. What was that like for you coming out of that? I mean, obviously, you chatted with your friend and you realize, “Okay, some of the stuff, there’s something happening here.” But that must have been quite an integration process.
Nick: Yeah, it’s probably not a coincidence that it was happening during a major life transition. I was in the process of quitting my job and starting my entrepreneurship journey.
I actually liken that a lot to my first rite of passage, where it was the first time I’d willingly taken a plunge into the unknown and had an intention for doing so. It was the first journey I had where I came out different. I was like, “Oh, there’s only me before that and me after that.”
I still didn’t have any sort of spiritual framework. I still didn’t have a lot of the tools that I have now, but it was definitely a turning point for me in what I’ll call a true state of forced surrender.
Jimmy: There was no other way.
Jimmy: It’s the only way that you can navigate something like that.
Nick: Right. But I still think it was somewhat relegated, if I think back on it now, it was still somewhat relegated to this experience that I had that I also felt I couldn’t share with a lot of people.
Jimmy: For sure, yeah.
Nick: It wasn’t normal or accepted to do this at the time. I mean, this was probably more like 2014-15, but there was nobody that was talking about doing this at that time. I mean, this was still out there.
Jimmy: Yeah, it was really similar for me through my early psychedelic experiences about you have these experiences, and then you’re just left to putting it on the shelf internally within your being and within your mind. What do you do about these things?
Very similarly to you as well, is that my first early experiences had no framework– I was just really exploring out there. No framework, no structure, no any of that.
And what I realized very early on is even if I was approaching psychedelics somewhat intentionally, meaning things like set and setting and do I have my needs set taken care of, do I have water, do I have a plan?
Even that type of intentionality. Before intentionality around, “What’s the work or the content that I want to explore?”
I realized that for the first many years of my psychedelic experiences, it was really about just releasing the pressure valve for a while and then I would get back to life, and then the crud would build back up.
But then I’d feel the sludge and feel the friction and then I’d go back. And then I’d release a little bit of the pressure and so on and so forth. That just went for a long time until I realized, “Oh, there’s something more here.”
This repeating the cycle of just building up pressure and releasing it is actually not doing anything different than when I was just sitting there in constant suffering previously.
In a weird way, it opened up a wedge for me and then over time, I was like, “How do I do this without having to go back to the medicine? Is there a world where I could just be relieving and releasing the pressure of my life every day?”
And just even seeing that it was possible through psychedelics was a huge template for me. And then I was like, “Okay. Let’s explore this.”
Nick: I mean how did you go from just like, what I’ll call one peak experience to the next to actually making improvements or rather sustained changes on a day-to-day basis between your experiences?
Jimmy: Well, I’ll tell you that a lot of it was through resistance. [chuckles] Let me pause to say, I’m the type of person where when there’s a real-life lesson, it has to be loud enough for me to acknowledge it.
And so many times I’ll get a message and I’m aware, “Oh, there’s a thing that I should adjust, change, look at, whatever.” But if it’s too chill- [laughter]
Jimmy: -then I’m not going to listen. It can be very direct. It doesn’t even have to be subtle. But if it doesn’t get my f*cking attention, then I’m not going to do anything about it. So, what would happen is the same things would keep coming up in psychedelic experiences.
Let’s talk about looping, where there is a period of time for like a year where every time I would have a psilocybin experience, it would be almost the same experience, the same trip, the same things coming up, the same stuff. I would get out and I would do nothing about it. And I go back.
Nick: And there it is again.
Jimmy: And then there it is again. I’m right in the same sh*t. [Nick laughs] So, the whole goal of me trying to release the pressure wasn’t working. And so, I was like, “F*ck now I’m like totally resisting.” I was like, “Okay, I got to do something about this.”
And then that then forced me into experimenting here, trying this, seeing how I show up in this relationship, seeing how a lot of my suffering was self-induced. It’s just a lot of this experimenting.
I can’t pinpoint, “Oh, there’s this one moment where I had it figured out and I’m good.” But over time, sitting at the crafting table of myself trying to experiment with some of this stuff, I was like, “Okay, there’s just things that are shifting.”
It was almost like these little thousands and thousands of little shifts that would open up a little bit more room for me, a little bit more space for me here, a little bit more space for me there. And then that’s then what opened up the change and what’s possible.
So, can’t track any of that data. Really messy, no support. I was in the echo chamber of myself. So, I would go through big spells of like, “Oh, I’m finally making progress on self-love.” But I had no accountability around it.
And so, there were many times where I would be working, working, working so hard towards this one part of my personal growth, and then boom, it all crumbles back down. But that’s that lesson being loud again. For me to be like, “Ah, you got to look at this.”
And so, it was really uncomfortable, to be honest with you, because a lot of this, much like you, I was doing in secret, doing quietly having this process. And then also my actual life was in turmoil for quite a bit of [chuckles] time and so.
Jimmy: Yeah. I went through it.
The Impact of a Psychedelic Facilitator
[00:34:12] Nick: I’m glad that you shared what you just did because one of the other questions that we get frequently and we also got during this Reddit AMA the other day which, for those who are curious, is all public and posted–
And there’s some good questions and answers in there, but someone asks about exactly what you’re talking about, they’re like, “Well, so what’s to stop me from just doing this on my own versus hiring a guide or facilitators?”
Jimmy: You totally can.
Nick: And I’m like, “You can if you have the time, energy, risk tolerance to troubleshoot your way through this.” Thankfully, there is a lot more information out there than when you and I started.
But my hope is that anyone that listens to this goes, “Oh, yeah, it’s not actually just as simple as just eating a dose.” Like anyone can do that part. What’s hard is the structure around it that actually allows you to navigate it with grace–
And then move the needle in your everyday life such that you’re actually making progress, and that’s the part that took, at least for me, a good 10+ years to figure out through extreme amounts of trial and error.
Jimmy: I’m torn because I’m really grateful for the 15 years of psychedelic experiences that I’ve had. It shaped who I am. They happened, how they were meant to happen. I can’t go back in the past and redo them.
At the same time, I look back and I’m like, “Man, if you had some support or if you had somebody to talk to, or if you had somebody to help you to be there and actually hold you through your experience.”
I’m meaning, like, in the frame of a facilitator, not like– well, sometimes somebody may hold me during my experience if I need a little help. I just know how much impact that can make. And so, you have your sovereignty. You want to go eat 10 grams and go hide in the woods?
Listen, knock yourself out. If you don’t have an emergency contact and you don’t have a way to get to the bathroom or you fall and you hurt yourself and you need to call somebody and you can’t, that’s also a part of radical sovereignty.
And so, when everybody takes on this radical ownership into the decisions that you make in your life, ooh, there’s a lot of medicine there. There’s a lot of medicine there.
I’m not even just talking about psychedelics. I’m talking about the mindset of, I am going to choose what’s right for me and I am going to deal with all of the benefits, all the pros, all the cons, all the repercussions, all of the stuff.
I found that that comes from my work with psychedelics. It’s one of the rarer things where you see the immediate outcomes of your actions or thoughts or repercussions. There’s very few things out there.
Nick: Kind of like when you and I decided, well, I decided I wanted to try acid for the first time [Jimmy laughs] and we decided about two hours into our first dose to eat a whole another dose.
Let me tell you, we had to deal with the consequences of that decision for the next 24 hours. I certainly learned my lesson in dosage, duration, and intensity through that, what was probably one of the longest and most challenging days of my life, frankly-
Jimmy: Oh, we were close to up to 20 hours of being altered.
Nick: -of just tripping.
Jimmy: I finally, finally went to bed with fairies, it sounds so nice.
Nick: Yeah, right.
Jimmy: That’s just a loose term. I finally lost consciousness and slept a few hours and I woke up and I was still altered.
Allow us to make these mistakes and issues and then bring it forward into our way of service so that you don’t have to go through that. We were college kids. We could take time off and whatever, but if you did that on a Friday–
Nick: We also didn’t have fully developed ego constructs and senses of self. I find that when you’re in that 18 to 25 range, you’re still very malleable. A lot of us don’t have quite the level of self-awareness.
A lot of us have these potential diagnoses and things may be latent, but then once you start to get into 30, 40, 50, and you really start to build this sense of identity that can be questioned and shattered very quickly.
And so, I’m grateful that our experimentation happened when we were young and had this internal malleability. But I think about myself now and if I had no experience and tried that same level of experimentation, I’m in such a different stage in life, I can’t afford to be doing that.
Jimmy: And we had enough flexibility in our lives for safety nets to catch us. And not everybody has that. Some people do need to work two jobs to feed their families.
Some people can’t take time off even if they’re having an internal existential crisis or whatnot. And so, when I look back on that, we had made that decision at 5:00 PM, by 9:00 PM, we were dosing and then–[crosstalk]
Nick: It was so spontaneous.
Jimmy: It was so spontaneous. So, so, so, spontaneous. It’s a lot of why we put in so much of our heart into our work now. And I think that people can do whatever they want with their mind, their body, their spirit, and whatever that includes with psychedelics.
But now there are options out here. There are folks who do this full time and professionally, and I just wish that was around or it was around, but I had no clue how to get into these communities–
Nick: No, no, no.
Jimmy: -and those groups or how to vet people and whatnot.
Nick: Dude, to put this in perspective, Instagram wasn’t even a thing yet.
Jimmy: [laughs] Yeah, that’s right. Instagram came out right around then.
How Times Have Changed: Their Psychedelic Use Journey in Review
[00:40:21] Nick: We were so early. And so this was just a time where information was not as readily available and it was just not the norm to put those guardrails in place.
And now I think about the analogy of if like you’re going to go raft a river, yeah, you could go do it yourself, but unless we have first-hand experience, we’re like, “Mm, probably going to get a guide.” And I think this is much the same.
If you have the time, the energy, the safety nets, the support, and the risk tolerance, great, go for it on your own and figure it out. But you don’t have to anymore. We didn’t really have that option when you and I first started this.
Jimmy: I think about the folks who were experimenting with psychedelics in the 60s and the decades before and after were very, very similar–
And now those are the folks who are circling back around in their 70s and 80s to have another shot at it. Yeah, I mean, I hope that this conversation has been helpful with anything– [crosstalk]
Nick: I want to touch on one thing before we sign off.
Jimmy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go ahead.
Nick: I’m curious I’ll share mine too, but what was your first– how did you go? I think about it as a three-stage journey from recreational to intentional–
And then all the way over to the opposite end of the spectrum, which is more ceremonial. How did you make it the rest of the way over to what I’ll call ceremonial use?
Jimmy: Yeah. I’ll also say it was because of trial by fire and recognizing what I didn’t have. I come from a world where a lot of the practices that I have now– I’ve gathered from influences of other people, other ceremonialists, and things like that.
If you look at the last 15 years of my psychedelic experiences, the first five years with these recreational whatever, that bleeds into the rest of it. But then there was a five-year period of me having solo experiences and trying to figure things out.
And then probably the last five years is more leaning into this formal ceremonial work. I would say that chunk in the middle were things that I would have to create in real time in order for me to navigate these experiences.
And so, I went for a long period of time where I didn’t do psychedelics in public. It was all solo work for a really long time.
And it was through that that I realized the importance of an altar, it was through that I realized setting a container and saying a prayer and how music plays into it and all that.
But it was me and the medicine, really, and trying to just figure it out or knowing the absence of that thing. I’m like, “Okay, this is now something that I got to implement.” So, yeah, I guess I’m more in a self-taught category.
Nick: You’re a rōnin, bro.
Jimmy: Well, I’ve always looked for a teacher in human form, but time and time again the teacher has just always been the plant or the fungi every single time. And then I know you had apprenticed with the curandero for a time.
Nick: Yeah, for me, I definitely had an extreme amount of reverence and respect for the medicines and also, I just had never actually been in a ceremonial container until I got an opportunity to sit with ayahuasca for the first time.
And for those that don’t know that’s typically done in a communal group setting. But what was so interesting for me was it was the first time where there was alignment with the group, like structure with the group, container to hold the group, and under– [crosstalk]
Jimmy: So, [crosstalk] for the cohesiveness.
Nick: Exactly. To go from house party style group or friend group in the woods to a group of strangers, but with a container around it. Just remember thinking, “Oh, man, that’s how these medicines are supposed to be used.”
Once I had that experience of a ceremonial container, it was like all the rest of the dots connected for me and I go, “Oh, that was the missing link here.”
I always knew there was something more to these medicines. I always knew there was something going on, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And then the first time I sat in one of these ceremonial containers, I’m like, “Oh, yep, that’s it.
That’s the part for me, that’s what was not recreational, that’s what was not all fun.” There were all those little epiphanies that I had through trial and error, “Oh, yeah, ceremony, that’s the missing link here.”
What I thought was really interesting is it was the first time I had had the experience of someone supporting me that wasn’t also there to do their own work. They were there to support, like a dedicated support role.
For me personally, that gave me an ability to surrender that I had never been able to fully tap into before because it’s like that tethering effect.
Like when you know someone’s there holding you, you feel free to explore as far and as deep as you want, but if you feel like you’re your own tether, it’s really, really scary. [crosstalk]
Jimmy: There’s just always a percentage of you that needs to keep tethered back. Like keep tethered into that grounding point or whatnot.
Nick: Like this reality, you’re like, “What if I got to get to the bathroom? I need to figure out how to get there.” But if you’ve got someone there to support you, they can help. And so, that was a big, big epiphany for me.
Jimmy: Yeah, it was really similar in my own process where a lot of this I oriented from a recreational standpoint. My whole theme for a long time was safe spaces for weird people.
It was just something that in my mind that I would just say all the time at parties, at events, at whatever, it’s like if somebody’s having a weird moment, can you create a safe space for them?
That’s why I love the harm reduction work and the festival work and all that stuff. And then when I came into my first ceremony, I was like–
“Oh, this is the thing that I’ve been talking about. There’s something here.” I’m glad that we’ve found our route into the way that we show up with ourselves and these medicines.
Nick: Well, and it’s nice because I think we gave folks this full circle depiction of off the rails, unstructured consciousness exploration all the way over to where we are now, which is fully structured, supportive frameworks, tools, all of it.
Jimmy: And look, our stories are our stories. There are also people who have been eating LSD for 20 years, and they’re still eating LSD the same way that they started. This is what I mean about radical sovereignty.
Like, what are you going to do with the opportunities and the privilege that you have? I hope that you all have gotten to know us little bit more. And if anything, are entertained by some of the stories that we’ve shared, we could probably share a hundred more stories–
But I’m glad that we’re able to capture the essence and a little bit of our own individual journeys and how we’ve gotten to this juncture so, that’ll wrap up this episode.
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