In this captivating episode of The TripSitting Podcast, host Cam introduces co-founder of Psychedelic Passagem Nicholas Levich. Cam sets the stage for an open and raw conversation about the pros and cons of psychedelics in modern-day society, their potential to heal, and the need for a solid framework to ensure safe and effective usage.
As the episode unfolds, Nicholas shares his personal journey into the world of psychedelics, recounting his first encounter with mushrooms during his college years.
Cam delves into the topic of drug usage in general, highlighting the need to redefine our understanding of substances, including psychedelics and plant medicines.
The discussion reveals the limitations of conventional Western approaches to altered states of consciousness and the lack of frameworks for integrating these experiences into everyday life.
Nicholas and Cam candidly explore the shortcomings of traditional rites of passage, such as bar mitzvahs, and the need for more intentional and transformative practices.
Throughout the episode, Nicholas and Cam provide insights into the nuances of solo versus group journeys, the significance of energetic containers in ceremonial settings, and the power of community in the psychedelic space.
They emphasize the importance of individual preferences and the need for people to choose the journey that aligns best with their needs and desires.
The TripSitting Podcast – “Psychedelic in Modern Day Society w/ Nicholas Levich”
Cam: Hello, hello, hello. Welcome to The TripSitting Podcast. On this episode, we have Nicholas Levich, who is the cofounder of a company called Psychedelic Passage. And for those who don’t know what Psychedelic Passage is, it is a company that basically connects you with a trained facilitator to help take you through a psychedelic journey. So, it’s a dope company. I love what he’s doing in the space. There’s definitely a need for it.
And then on this episode, we honestly just have like a really raw, open conversation about the pros and cons of psychedelics, where they fit into modern-day society, how he got started with using psychedelics in the first place, how it’s helped him, and how it could maybe help heal the world, but how psychedelics are definitely not the only answer, but we definitely need to have a framework in place for people to use them. So, thank you for joining me.
And then also too, if you could rate this podcast wherever you’re listening to it and follow it and maybe share it with a friend, that’s always much appreciated. But without further ado, here we go. I would love to just start by just hearing more about your journey. How did psychedelics enter your life initially? Let’s start there.
How Nicholas was First Introduced to Psychedelics
Nick: The very first time they showed up in my life was sophomore year of college. I was in a fraternity, living in the fraternity house, and a bunch of the guys were like, “Hey, we’ve got an ounce of mushrooms. Let’s all eat an eighth and go to the park.
And I had no concept of like if an eighth was a lot or a little bit. I wasn’t sure what kinds of mushrooms they were. I wasn’t sure what to expect. There was little to no plan. A couple of the guys had done them before. They’re like, “It’s nice to be outside and in the sun. We’re just going to go.
We’ll bring Frisbees and snacks and water,” and whatever. We get to the park, and right as we get there, I start to feel it coming on. And a bunch of the guys are like throwing Frisbees and balls around and stuff. And I get to this point where I’m literally rolling around on a blanket in the grass listening to the grass grow and I’m like losing my marbles.
And I just got overtaken by the psilocybin and had no idea what the hell was actually going on. And I remember friends coming up to me, going, “Are you okay?” And I couldn’t even say anything. I just held up my thumbs up, I’m like, “Yeah, I’m good.
I don’t even know how to form sentences right now, but I’m all right.” And that was really my first entry into truly altered states of consciousness and I really had no idea what I was stepping into at the time.
Cam: What was your experience, I guess, relationship with drugs in general? And I say that kind of loosely because what we consider drugs and what we consider plant medicine, I consider everything a drug.
When you take Advil in the morning for a headache, I consider that taking a drug, consider plant medicine a drug as well. All of these different things are drugs. But I’m curious, up until that point, kind of what was your relationship with even cannabis or anything else recreational?
Nick: Yeah, I had certainly consumed alcohol. That was just like a big part of college. I had a relationship with cannabis at the time and I had experienced MDMA, but none of that really prepared me for the full force of a psilocybin journey, especially when I wasn’t sure what I was signing up for.
Cam: [chuckles] So, what changed after that? Was it an immediate, like, “Oh sh*t, there’s something here,” or it just left an impression?
Nick: I think what really happened was that I distinctly remember going out to dinner that night. It was like a Friday night and a bunch of us all went out to dinner, and I just remember feeling better and I couldn’t articulate why or how or what it was, but I just remember thinking, “Huh.” That experience kind of wiped the slate clean.
There was this feeling of being reset. But there was such little literature out around psilocybin and plant medicine in particular, especially in any sort of like intentional or therapeutic application. And so, I really had no idea how to relate the two. I was missing the framework.
Cam: Yeah, I know that’s something that you talk about, and specifically in one of the videos that you have on YouTube about what was the most challenging part, was not having a framework in place once you actually start using psychedelics with intention.
Nick: Yeah. I think in the western world, we’re not really set up to hold experiences like that. We don’t really value the ethereal or spiritual or the stuff that transcends the material reality here. And so, I had no idea what to do with any of this or how to hold it.
And I think there’s a lot of people that experiment with psychedelics or just altered states of consciousness in general, whether it’s breath work or fasting or whatever the case is, and you get into these altered states that are very profound.
But the question is, what do you do with it after? How does this impact your day-to-day life? And without that framework or understanding, I think it can be really hard to approach integration.
Cam: Yeah. Just from, I guess, coming of age standpoint of what this psychedelic experience makes me think of is, I know that there’s a lot of indigenous lineages that use plant medicine for rituals and they use it for coming-of-age ceremonies and things like that.
And I know that you’re Jewish as well, and I’m also Jewish, so I think to my bar mitzvah and how that is something that we do still do in a modern time that’s supposed to be like a big coming of age ceremony and how, I guess, for me, it didn’t do sh*t. We were culturally Jewish, and I was told to do this and then I felt no different afterwards at all.
But the whole idea behind this ceremony though, I think psychedelics have helped me understand it, it is supposed to put you in a new mindset of sort of being a man and taking on different responsibilities and being okay with changing and stuff like that, but it’s just hard in western society.
It very much misses the mark with, I think, the way that most religions try to go about sort of making people think this way. I get the point of it, of expanding people’s minds and making them think in a different way, but it’s just so hard once it’s been so– I don’t know, once capitalism is involved or whatever the f*ck it is.
Nick: Yeah. I’ll tell you for certain that my bar mitzvah was not the rite of passage that I think many of us are lacking in our lives. Like, that compared to an intentional psilocybin ceremony, or any plant medicine ceremony is night and day because to me, one’s a formality. It’s like this formal requirement, a lot of it’s for show, but no part of a psychedelic experience is for show. It’s all to rearrange what’s going on internally.
Cam: Yeah, the huge focus on internal versus external, whereas all of these other rites of passage, first show is inherently an external experience.
Cam: So, after you had that first experience, I guess, did you immediately start trying to figure out, “Okay, why do I feel better?” Or was it still just something more so in the back of your mind?
Did Nicholas Notice Immediate Benefits?
Nick: No, I think I literally went and had a beer after. I was in college, like 19 and just trying to-
Cam: Well, that happens. [chuckles]
Nick: -function. Yeah. And so, it took me some time. I would say that I had a number of recreational experiences after that with mushrooms, LSD, all kinds of different substances.
And I think the next turning point in my journey was when I came across Terence McKenna and he’s got these lectures around psychedelics and psilocybin in particular, and kind of talking about how the only way to intimately understand the mushroom is to do five grams alone in a dark room fasted by yourself.
And I did that because I wanted to understand what he was talking about. Now, full caveat to anyone who’s listening, I don’t recommend doing that, at least not without the proper support and preparation. However, I didn’t really know any better at the time, and I went for it. I also had a number of psilocybin experiences under my belt at that point before I elected to do it that way.
That was really what started to help me transition from more recreational experiences over to what I’ll call intentional experiences. Meaning, there was an actual intention behind wanting to consume medicine in that way, but that still wasn’t quite the full picture.
And so, what really helped was several years later, I got introduced to a shamanic practitioner and someone who serves ayahuasca as medicine. And that was the first time I had the opportunity to sit in a ceremonial container.
And that was when the lightbulb started going off for me of like, “Oh, this is what’s been missing.” I always felt, doing these medicines at a house party or at a concert or even out camping in nature, there was nothing inherently wrong with it, but I always kind of got the sense that there was something missing.
And for me, it was the whole ceremonial container piece, like having an energetically contained environment in which to do a journey and to have actual supporters there that are responsible for holding that space down.
And that was where I was like, “Oh, I can go deeper. I can do more work,” because you have support, and there’s something to be said for journeying by yourself because there’s this radical self-reliance and self-resourcing that has to occur. But that’s not for everyone.
And when I was able to be in a ceremonial container that had structure and support and ritual incorporated into it, that was when I had my most profound healing moments. I mean, they were all important, but those ones were like the jet fuel on the fire.
Cam: Yeah. All those other ones are leading up to making you comfortable enough to even go into that ceremonial space. It takes a lot mentally just to make that decision. I’m going to take this medicine with intention to do deep inner healing work. That’s not a f*cking easy decision or an easy thing to do.
Nick: In my experience, most people don’t go there until the pain of the present moment outweighs the potential discomfort of change. In other words, they’re at some sort of rock bottom or major crises or inflection point in life because we as humans don’t change unless we’re forced to. And for most people, things have to get pretty uncomfortable to all of a sudden go, “Hmm, maybe I’m going to reevaluate my whole life.”
Cam: Yeah. That was what ayahuasca kind of did for me after the fact. I think before I made the decision to even go do ayahuasca, I was certainly getting there. It was going to happen to me eventually. I think ayahuasca just helped accelerate that process.
But I was using them pretty much 100% of the time recreationally. And honestly, even going into going on an ayahuasca retreat, I really had no concept of what a ceremonial setting really meant and what the actual point of the curanderos were, how to actually safely contain space energetically, having facilitators there.
I didn’t realize the importance of all that and really what that meant, but once I was there, it clicked. And I think it definitely just allowed me to go so much deeper than I ever would have been able to, had I even simply just tried by myself.
Anytime you’re using recreational psilocybin or LSD, if you’re at a concert or you’re just in a park with your friends, it’s not really a great space to be able to fully surrender and let go and just know that all these other people that are tripping around you are going to have your back. They’re going through their own sh*t.
Nick: Exactly. And that’s one of the other things I hear from clients a lot of the time, is like, “Oh, I didn’t understand what ceremony was,” or, “I didn’t understand what you meant by holding space until I experienced it.”
And then, the lightbulbs go off and people go, “Wow, that was healing in and of itself,” because the way that I frame it is like, very few of us have had someone’s unadulterated, undivided presence just being with us for like six to eight hours. When’s the last time you had someone that set aside their whole life, their whole day, just to be with you?
As you’re potentially going through one of your most challenging or vulnerable moments of your life, that’s not common practice. And so, even if you strip out the psilocybin, that’s still a very powerful impactful healing experience for someone. And then, you layer in this powerful tool, and you’ve got the recipe for the potential for healing that doesn’t exist in many other venues.
Cam: Yeah. Do you think that there’s either advantages or disadvantages to doing one on one ceremonies where you just have dedicated facilitator and just you versus doing it in group ceremonies where you might have multiple facilitators and multiple people actually going through the experience with you?
1-on-1 Psychedelic Experiences vs. Group-Led Journeys
Nick: Absolutely. I think it’s really important to acknowledge that anytime we’re stepping into a container of any sorts, especially with altered states of consciousness and plant medicine, there’s an energetic enmeshment that occurs. And so, you, as the journeyer, will be in a hyper aware state.
Meaning, you will pick up on the facilitators’ energy, the other participants’ energy. Some people, when I say this, picking up on energy, it’s like, “What does that mean?”
Okay, well, if you’ve ever walked into a room and had the sensation of like, “Oh, I’m not supposed to be here,” or you walk into a family gathering and there’s this warmth, we’ve all had the experiences, regardless of how we perceive energy, we’ve all had these experiences of things being like subtly feeling good or subtly feeling not good.
And that is the energetic dynamic that I’m talking about. And if that’s like thousand times magnified because you’re on a psychedelic, you are going to pick up on everything that’s going on in that space.
And so to me, there’s pros and cons to both. We literally recorded a whole podcast episode just on this question of, “Should I journey solo, with my partner, with a group?” And basically to me, the benefit of solo is that you can go deeper and you have undivided attention of your facilitator.
And so, for folks that have social anxiety or trouble expressing themselves in groups, oftentimes, solo is a really good way to start. I’m very careful about facilitating for partners because that can be a sticky situation.
Primary considerations there are like, what is the state of your relationship and what are you guys trying to work on individually and or together? Because if your toxic partnership is part of the issue and then you get into a container and eat psychedelics together, that’s not a good way to handle that.
If you have a toxic relationship, my advice would actually be to take individual journeys, start to sort through your own stuff and then come back to the relationship together.
I also recognize that there are certain medicines, like ayahuasca, that are traditionally done in groups.
And there’s an immense amount of power and community when you go through a shared experience like that with other members, other attendees. And so, it’s not that that’s bad, but there’s a lot more energy at play. You’ll be hyperaware of the other folks that are journeying and all the various facilitators and assistants that are a part of that circle. And so, you just have to be mindful of that.
Cam: Yeah, but there’s no necessarily like, this one’s better than the other. It’s just understanding that there are differences and being able to weigh those differences and just make a decision.
And honestly kind of back to something you were saying. But when you can feel energy just following your intuition, like if you think that you’re going to do better in a group setting, do it in a group setting. You think you can do-
Cam: -better by yourself, do it by yourself with the facilitator, with the trip sitter.
Nick: Exactly. And so, people will say they’re like, “I don’t know what to do.” I’m like, “Okay, well, which one feels most comfortable to you?” “Oh, definitely one on one.” I’m like, “Okay, well, that’s what you should do.” So much of this comes down to choosing what’s right for us, not what’s right for someone else or what worked for someone else.
And some people, what they need is community and some people what they need is one on one support. And so, it’s about framing this up and equipping the listeners with an understanding of like, these are the pros and cons of both, so that you can make an educated decision.
Cam: Yeah. Kind of even speaking about that, isn’t it crazy, just something that I’ve noticed in myself and then since plant medicine has brought that out of me and notice a lot of people, just how often we as humans doubt our intuition think that we’re supposed to be thinking or feeling some other way other than exactly how we feel.
Nick: 100%. I run men’s groups, and it’s especially common with men because a lot of men are very cerebral and so we like to think our way through problems and problem solve and research and analyze and whatever. And sometimes the heart just tells you something and the brain will never figure out how to rationalize it.
It just cannot figure it out. And when I hit those inflection points, it’s like, “Does not compute. Does not compute. What’s happening here?” And I’ve learned that my only option is to continue to trust that little subtle, intuitive voice. But there were a number of years where I wasn’t even in touch with that.
And so that’s the problem, I think, with a lot of folks who are in states of despair, distress, discomfort, it’s really hard to hear that voice because it’s so subtle and the mental narrative is so loud that it’s like trying to pick out a whisper in the middle of a concert.
Cam: Yeah. If you’re so used to thinking your way through problems, like being able to just start ignoring that completely and just start feeling and just listening, it’s basically like somebody talking to you in a completely different language that you’ve never heard before. You’re just not going to know how to respond to that.
Nick: And it takes an immense amount of trust. Trust in yourself and then faith in the universe, spirit, whatever you want to call it. But there’s this trust component that were– To me, that’s the hardest. And as a culture, I think that’s the hardest. How do you cultivate that sense of trust that this whole thing is collaborative in nature and you’re not just like the only one out there doing it?
Cultivating Trust in the Collaborative Nature of Our Society
Cam: Yeah. Basically, when we come from a society, and I don’t want to say western society is sick by any means because there are obviously pros and cons to everything.
I think for the most part it’s not great. But when you grow up in that society, trusting your intuition and basically trusting yourself, you’re never taught to do that. And so that’s not something that you just naturally pick up on. Even if you grew up in especially organized religion, I think that’s more about control than f*cking anything else.
Cam: Which is funny too, because as I’ve started kind of going down this plant medicine path, I actually understand the base teachings of religion more than I ever have and can actually connect them. It’s just religion f*cks it all up.
Nick: Well, the issue for me is the dogma. If you strip out the dogma, religion is essentially no different than spirituality. But the second the dogma is introduced, then that’s where it all falls flat for me. But I totally agree. All this talk about God means nothing if you’ve not had the direct experience of God. And then when you have the direct experience, you’re like, “Oh, I understand what these texts are actually about now.”
Cam: Yeah. I actually feel it again, feeling rather than just knowing, I can know something logically to be true, but if I’ve never felt that, why would I believe it?
Nick: And that, to me, is the beauty of plant medicines is they teach from direct experience. So, it’s one thing to know something conceptually or intellectually, but once you have the direct experience of it, no one can take that from you.
Like, Pandora doesn’t go back in the box. And to me, that’s what’s cool because that direct experience is what rewires your subconscious. There’s the old adage, “Oh, there’s nothing to fear.” Okay, great.
But if I have never actually felt that to my core, that there’s nothing to fear, I’m still going to have fear. But once you have that direct experience, you’re like, “Oh, got it.” And this applies to all different emotions or sensations.
Cam: Well, even deeper than that, and I’m sure that you will agree with this too. But the psychedelics, you can feel it and then you can see it, and that’s what helps begin the process of rewiring your brain.
But the actual process is all in the integration afterwards is basically remembering, like, “Oh, sh*t, I had that experience where I didn’t feel fear, or I trusted the universe. How do I now bring that into my everyday life where I don’t have to be in an altered state of consciousness in order to be able to feel that?”
Nick: Exactly. And that, to me, is the perfect summation of the purpose of integration. And the beauty of it is that neural pathway has been built. Like, once you’ve experienced it, once, you can get back there, but it requires setting aside the time and having a practice around it, and that is where I find most people fall short, and that’s what ends up to a lot of these folks, like, chasing peak experiences.
It’s like, “Oh, well, if the only way I can feel that sense of unity is by eating mushrooms,” then it kind of defeats the purpose because you’re reliant on this external substance to achieve the state that you want to be in.
And in reality, most of the people that I talk to, they don’t want to rely on anything external. They just want to have their day-to-day experience be them showing up in the way that they want.
Cam: Yeah, being able to just go through every single day. One of the biggest, I guess, lessons for me, and I think is probably pretty common for a lot of people. But ayahuasca really showed me what it really meant to love myself.
Like, love every single part of myself, which was basically the dark part that I had been suppressing for my entire life, unknowingly subconsciously as a way to protect myself growing up, but showing me that, “Hey, this is here,” and you can still love yourself with all this here, and loving yourself regardless.
And knowing that if I can just literally just try to do that every day, try my best, there are going to be days where I’m going to fall miles short of that. But trying to just do that every day without relying on any sort of other substance or anyone other than just me, that’s what helps me show up most authentically in the world.
Nick: Totally. And I had the exact same experience with grandma, with ayahuasca, which was like, this is what self-love actually feels like. And prior to that, it was just a concept for me. And it’s funny, I’m sure you experienced this too, but you can’t push away those unsavory aspects of yourself.
You can’t pretend they’re not there, you can’t ignore them, you can’t push them away, you can’t disown them. The only option is to love the whole thing. And if you think about it, that’s all we want as children is to be loved. And most of these things are just wounds from our childhood. And so, what’s the antidote?
You just love it all and acknowledge that’s a part of yourself. And the beauty of it for me is like, once you’ve acknowledged it’s there and that it’s a part of you, you can choose whether you act on it or not.
And that’s where the power comes in, because it doesn’t mean you don’t have the thought or the neuroses or whatever it is that arises. It just means you get to choose what you do with that information. And that little bit of pause where you get to decide what to do is everything.
Cam: Just the power of choice, I specifically remember during my second ayahuasca ceremony which was so unbelievably difficult, I was just suffering for hours and hours because I was fighting it.
I didn’t know the concept of surrender because I had never truly surrendered to something in my f*cking life because it never felt safe to do that. So I was still just holding on. But basically, it was all of these intense emotions of just pain, suffering, shame, guilt, all being shown to me as this knot in my stomach.
And this might get a little too personal, but basically, I’m purging out of both ends at the same time. I’m sitting on the toilet and I’m throwing up at the exact same time. And then, I’m just sweating profusely.
And then right in that moment that I’m doing that in my most vulnerable state, just the thought is like, “I’m choosing to hold all of this inside of me and I don’t need to make that choice. I don’t need to let the energy affect me.”
Nick: Yeah, but I’m glad that you share that because it’s important that people get the real personal perspective on how this looks because one of my bugaboos in this whole psychedelic movement is that the mainstream media basically portrays these things as a magic bullet, a quick fix, a magic pill, whatever term you want to use, but when you share your story like that about violent vomiting and thrashing around on the ground and whatever else is going on, it’s not pretty.
There’s no part of this process that’s particularly enjoyable or comfortable or pretty or looks good externally. It’s like messy and uncomfortable and challenging. But similar to a marathon, you don’t do it because it’s easy or fun. You do it because it’s a goal and you get this deep sense of fulfillment and meaning when you cross that finish line.
Cam: Well, that’s it too. I mean, I think it’s just not enough people in general portray life as it actually is. Life is messy and doesn’t look good. Most of it’s like we only see the good that people portray because again, we want to just show everybody that we’re doing f*cking great, everything’s fine–
Nick: That’s Instagram culture, basically. Yeah.
Cam: Mm-hmm. When you’re just so used to that, again, the same sick western society is now going to take this incredibly deep, vulnerable thing and just try to show these incredible great magic parts of it. And it’s dangerous because people then don’t know what they’re getting themselves into.
That’s the importance of having facilitators and having people talk about the real aspects of this, which sucks because there’s a lot of people now coming up in this movement that are absolutely just taking advantage of the f*cking hype.
Cam: And they’re totally going to make a ton of money and they’re going to be great and they’re still– I don’t really know where I’m going with that, but it sucks to see.
Nick: Well, I think from my perspective, the only people that are going to make it long term in this space are the service providers that are acting integrity.
From my perspective, anyone that’s out of integrity or in this for short term gains, unrealistic expectations, predatory practices, anything like that, they’re not going to last that long because from my perspective, this is incredibly sacred work. And if it’s not approached in that way, it’s just not going to be sustainable.
Things are going to go south, there will be adverse experiences, ethical missteps, power violations, all kinds of things. And once that’s aired out, once that comes to the light, those folks aren’t going to be around any long.
I mean, so much of being a facilitator is rooted in trust and the second that trust gets eroded, it’s very hard to earn it back. And so, I’m holding the frequency that there’s going to be this kind of self-regulation that occurs in the sense that the folks who are doing things out of integrity are not going to be around very long.
Cam: The ones that are not doing things with integrity.
Nick: Yeah. Out of integrity.
Cam: Yeah. I 100% agree. I guess what sucks is, just it is what it is, but there’s no way to speed that process along. There essentially is no end, and that lesson right there is one of the hardest parts of my integration is like, I see all these things about myself, and I’m like, “Cool, now how do I get there as quickly as possible?” That’s not it. [chuckles]
Psychedelics in a Quick Fix Society
Nick: No, and it can feel very daunting when you see the road ahead because I see this a lot where clients go through a journey, and it illuminates how much work there still is to do. And then you’re like, “Holy sh*t, I have to do all that?” It looks like you’ve got to climb a mountain sitting in front of you.
And one of the most helpful practices I found is stopping along the way to look back and acknowledge how far you’ve come because for a lot of these folks, just 30 days ago, they were in a whole different world mentally, emotionally, and physically.
And sure, there’s a lot more to go, but they’ve already climbed a mile or whatever it is. And so, a lot of this comes down to framing and having the patience to just zoom out and acknowledge where you’re at in the grand scheme of things.
Cam: Yeah, that’s something that I definitely agree with and something that I still kind of struggle with myself. I think once you start doing things like that feel authentic to you, once you, one, know what it actually– will know what your authentic self feels, that’s a sick feeling.
And then, once you then start doing things in alignment with yourself, you tend to, I think, still just want to keep doing more and helping as many people as you can and all of that.
If you’re not used to people giving you praise for being you, it’s difficult to continue to make yourself feel good about, like, “Holy sh*t, look how much I’ve done. I can’t believe. Even the last three months, I’ve accomplished this and this.”
Whereas even if on paper, based on whatever standard society puts or whatever standards that you use yourself or have used in the past, you need to understand that progress is progress, movement is movement. There’s no necessarily up this direction all the time. It’s going to be two steps forward, one step back, but the entire way.
Nick: Well, that’s the other piece about integration, is people think it’s linear. And it’s not. You can go from being on top of the world one day to just being crippled with anxiety the next day, and that’s part of integration.
And I think one thing that’s helpful is just acknowledging that we’re human beings and we’re literally designed to experience this full range of human emotion. But for whatever reason, we decide that some emotions are good and bad, and we want to feel others and not others. And at the end of the day, it’s all just energy in motion.
It’s all just this energetic residue that’s flowing through our body. And I think the more we can have some compassion for the fact that we’re designed to experience this full range of emotion, the less we judge it when we feel a little off one day or another.
Cam: Yeah. Something that I’ve really been thinking about a lot over the past couple of weeks is the concept of, “we are only human.” But at our base, what that means is we’re still animals. We are still animal on this earth.
And I think that we don’t tend to think of ourselves as the same as all of these other animals that are around us, as part of the exact same ecosystem that created all of us. But we are one with nature and we are still animal.
And when we try to act like we’re better than that’s when we lose sense with our intuition, and we can’t trust what we know is actually right for us. But we have the choice, which is, I think, what makes being a human unique.
Nick: We’re the only animal that actively pollutes our habitat and chooses to live in a habitat that is actively toxic. It blows my mind. Any other animal would be like, “Alert, this is a problem. We need to find something else or stop doing what we’re doing.”
And we have yet to get that message. But I agree with you. I think we all have these incredibly primal instincts. Some of us are more in touch with them than others, but there’s something to be said for dancing around a fire all night or looking up at the stars, or for some folks going hunting or getting their hands in the earth, whatever it is. But I think so many of us have lost that primal instinct, that connection to our animalistic nature.
Cam: Yeah. And also, what that really is at its core is just living in the present moment, not worrying about what you’re going to do in an hour from now and a year from now and 10 years from now is like surrendering specifically to right here, right now, whatever it is, whatever feels right.
Nick: Yeah. Which is way easier said than done when you have a lunch meeting and bills to pay and children and daycare and sports and we have all these other things going on and they’re all these micro distractions just jockeying for our attention.
Cam: Yeah. So, do you think plant medicine has the potential to really help western society? Let’s just talk about us, really fix that as we continue going down this path?
Can Psychedelic Medicine Help our Western Society?
Nick: I think so. With the caveat that I think the outcomes are going to be slightly dependent on the routes to access. In other words, right now, if someone’s seeking a psilocybin journey, for instance. They’ve got tons of different options.
They can go on an international retreat, they can try to get into a clinical trial, they can wait for the FDA approved track, they can go through a state sanctioned track. They could go to an underground facilitator, they could work with an organization, like ours, and get referred to a facilitator.
But I think that the answer is yes, plant medicine will help if it’s approached holistically and with integrity and with this framework of just understanding that everything is connected.
But I think if we essentially whitewash psychedelics and try to plug them into our existing healthcare system, that’s already broken, doesn’t really actually serve people not really rooted in wellness, I don’t know that that’s inherently going to help.
And so I guess if I could sum it up, it’s the psychedelics with the right framework and the right support that I think will result in this very meaningful shift. But I think if we just try to plug and play into a system that most Americans, I would venture to guess are displeased with, then I don’t think plugging them into our health care system is the answer.
And I think, to be clear, I’m okay with that option existing, but there should be other options too. And folks should be educated on the pros and cons of the different ways of getting treatment.
Cam: Yes, being able to choose without putting yourself in a f*cking insane financial bind, which is kind of what the system inherently breeds right now.
Nick: Exactly. I mean, it’s for profit. And at the end of the day, the insurance companies control pretty much everything. And so, I think that’s one of the main points of contention that we’ll see as this all evolves and matures is accessibility.
Like, is this only available for the wealthy? Or are the folks that actually need it, many of whom have been systemically disenfranchised? How do they get access and support and healing? And so I think anything in the plant medicine space tends to be fairly nuanced is what I’ve discovered.
Cam: Yeah. Everything that plant medicine has taught me, it’s not like plant medicine is the thing that is teaching me, plant medicine is helping me come to these conclusions myself. That’s just the catalyst, it’s a tool. But if we just have a shift in mindset from the get-go, which again, that’s entire f*cking system we’re talking about changing.
So it’s not like that’s a quick overnight shift, but it’s that shift that needs to gradually happen. And I think that at least what I’m seeing with plant medicine, with psychedelics, it helps accelerate that shift in some people and then as us people that basically just embody those values, as more and more people continue to just go about their lives, really embodying those values and not trying to change people.
And this is where religion gets it completely f*cking wrong. But like, I’m not trying to tell somebody that you need to go use plant medicine or that you need to live anywhere that I do. But if I act in every single way that I do, if I show up with love and compassion and empathy, that energy does truly ripple out totally.
Nick: [I always explain what you’re talking about. I describe it as like, people don’t want to be told what to do. They want to be inspired. So, telling someone to go do plant medicine is a bad idea.
Like, to your point, embodying the shifts that you’ve experienced from working with plant medicine is the best way to approach it, because all of a sudden, people go, “Cam, you’re glowing today. What’s happening? What did you do?” And that’s when you have the permission to share.
But I really firmly believe that it’s an extremely personal decision, and it’s done on our own timeline, and there’s really nothing else anyone can say or do, nor should they, to try and persuade you to do this. It’s your life, your mind, body, spirit, all that. And not everyone is cut out for these types of experiences, or at least not ready for them right now. We’re all on a unique timeline and trajectory.
Cam: Yeah. I’m going to switch gears a second and just ask something just a little more personal. Do you have a favorite medicine yourself that you like working with, or do you kind of switch a different medicine for different vibes? What’s your relationship with plant medicine now versus kind of how it’s changed over the years?
The Always-Changing Personal Relationship With Psychedelics
Nick: I’ve sat with a lot of different medicine. I can tell you with certainty that ayahuasca has definitely been what propelled me the furthest the fastest. But every other medicine played its role in that process. And the best way I could describe where I’m at now is that I’ve done enough medicine that it’s not about the medicine for me now.
It’s about, can I be in that place all the time? And can I get there through my practices where I don’t have to ingest anything? In other words, is my meditation emulating a journey every morning? Am I getting to that place of everything and nothing simultaneously, of just quiet and stillness?
If I can do that through my daily practice, I really don’t need the medicine. And so I use this analogy of like, when we first start working with medicine, oftentimes you’ve got these gunky sticky outer layers of the onion, and it takes a couple of times to sift through those outer layers.
But then you get closer and closer to your core essence. And the closer you get to that, the less gunk there is to sort through. It’s about nurturing the essence now that you’ve removed all the sh*t out of the way.
I would say I used to sit a lot more regularly because I was like cleaning house. It was like, “I’m going to go through here and pull out all the cobwebs, all the skeletons. I’m going hunting.” But I’ve hunted a lot, and then I reached this point where I’m like, I’m also a human and I need to live my life.
And so, I would say now for me it’s more about maintenance or when I hit these inflection points of like, “There’s something going on, I don’t quite have access to it in my normal state of consciousness, I need to try a different way of accessing it.”
Cam: Yeah, I think that’s how I think try to approach it now. I certainly got very, very caught up in healing, healing, healing. Like, “Oh, this is the only thing I need to work on right now.” And you put all this unnecessary pressure on yourself at the exact same time, which is the exact opposite of what I learned while on the plant medicine journey. So it’s this paradox–
Nick: It’s like, “Are you healing because you’re not enough or are you healing because you love yourself?”
Cam: Yeah, exactly. [laughs] So it can be really easy to get caught up in that, especially once you start going down it because something that you mentioned is like, this is not glamorous work by any means, but it’s fulfilling. So, once you kind of feel that fulfillment, it can be easy to confuse being in these altered states as the fulfillment itself versus the actual work that’s happening underneath as the fulfillment.
Nick: Exactly. And that’s where I think it’s really important to differentiate and distinguish between chasing peak states, peak experiences, and then acknowledging that the journey is actually to take it with you, not to keep chasing that liminal realm over and over and over again.
Cam: Yeah, I used to f*cking hate as a kid when anybody would say like, “Ah, the journey is the destination.” I was like, “Go f*ck yourself. I don’t believe that sh*t.” And now very much I’m like, “Nah, man, they got it right.” That really sucks [chuckles] I was so resistant to it before.
Nick: Yeah. I think it’s a natural thing when we’re young. It’s like we just want to get there, we want the thing, we want the toy, we want the gratification, we want whatever it is. And like, life does not work that way.
Cam: No, it does not. So, I’m curious too with Psychedelic Passage, with states like Oregon and Colorado now legalizing and other states doing like decrim, where does your model of basically working with plant medicine fit in with the way that it’s getting legalized?
The Legality of Psychedelic Passage’s Services
Nick: We operate outside of the state regulatory model. And basically, for those that don’t know, Psychedelic Passage functions as a concierge service that connects journeyers with a pre vetted network of facilitators all over the country.
And the way that we’re able to do this legally, transparently and above ground is that journeyers provide their own medicine. And so, everything we do is from a harm reduction standpoint, and it’s really rooted to– well, there’s a couple of things.
So, for starters, we recognize that people don’t know what they’re looking for. So, oftentimes journeyers have no idea what they’re seeking. And that creates a situation that’s ripe for these power imbalances where you’re like. “Hey, I’m Cam, I’m a facilitator.”
And the first thing I do is say, “Okay, well, if you say you’re a facilitator, then I’ll take your word for it.” There’s no way to verify, there’s no way to check. Most people have no idea who’s legitimate, who’s not. And you can see very quickly how that creates a situation where you can easily abuse your position of power. And it happens.
For those that don’t know, facilitator abuse is a real thing. And that’s why this is so important to me. And so, when it comes to a state like Oregon, the dynamic is very interesting because basically the state is trying to regulate something that they have very little knowledge about.
What that means for those that don’t know is that you will be able to go to a clinic in Oregon and they will administer psilocybin to you. What they’re not explaining, and what most people don’t know, is that those facilitators have very little training.
So, to put it in perspective, to be a licensed facilitator in the state of Oregon, legal with the state, that whole thing, you need 200 hours of education and a high school diploma. That’s nothing.
To put it in perspective, [Cam chuckles] to be a barber in the state of Oregon, you need over 700 hours of experience. Now, I’m no rocket scientist, but I can tell you that if a barber messes up your haircut, you might be a little bit upset, but the repercussions are very minimal.
If the facilitator messes with your journey or abuses you or behaves immorally or unethically, your mind, body and spirit is on the receiving end of that. This is someone that you’ve chosen to support you in your most vulnerable moments in life.
And so all this to say, we exist outside of that model, but alongside of it. And once again, folks will have choices on how to move forward. But what I want to make really clear is that just because it’s a state sanctioned model does not mean it’s legitimate. And so–[crosstalk]
Cam: [crosstalk] -the government doesn’t always make the exact right decisions for the well-being of us.
Nick: Shocker. Crazy. And it’s not that they’re trying to hurt anyone. It’s that they don’t know any better. And so, there’s going to be this environment where you’ve got two state licensed facilitators and one’s going to have 10 years of experience doing this work for decades underground and is now legitimizing themselves and they’re awesome.
And then you’ve got this person who’s never journeyed before. Maybe they’ve got narcissistic personality disorder and they’re a licensed facilitator. And how do you know the difference?
They both have the same level of licensure with the state. So, how are you going to navigate this? And so, you can see how very quickly it becomes a confusing landscape to journeyers who are exploring this.
One of the things that we’ve really tried to do here at Psychedelic Passage is say, “Okay, well, I’m a facilitator myself, so I know what to look for, I know what makes a good facilitator.” And I’m going to take that guesswork off of your plate, remove that burden from you as a journeyer.
Yes, you still have to make sure this person is a good fit for you and obviously do your due diligence, but at least I’ve run them through a screening process that is hundred times more in depth and robust and just truly comprehensive compared to what these states are doing.
Cam: Yeah, especially as the journeyer, I don’t know what questions I should even ask. So how am I supposed to know whether somebody’s a good facilitator or not if I’ve never worked with this before?
How to Qualify a Psychedelic Facilitator
Nick: Exactly. And then you factor in the part that they’re on antidepressants, can’t get out of bed and are just struggling to function, and now you’re asking them to assess another human being’s fitness, it just doesn’t go that well.
Cam: Yeah, completely agree there. And is there anything else that you would want to, I guess, shout out or like, any educational things that you think people should also look at if they’re interested in doing this work?
Nick: Just make sure you educate yourself. I recommend everyone does some reading, some research, join your local psychedelic society if you prefer to learn through peers.
There’s no shortage of ways to get information, but just start informing yourself because the better informed you are, the better the process will go, the smoother it’ll go and the more, I would say, higher likelihood of having a positive outcome for you. And so if there’s anything that you guys have questions around, you’re welcome to reach out to us.
We’re happy to be a resource for anyone that’s exploring this type of work and that’s really why we started is because I want to be a model for how to do things the right way. And it’s really easy to talk sh*t about people who are doing it wrong, but I’d prefer to just put my hat in the ring and hold my hand out for anyone that’s looking to explore this.
Cam: F*cking beautifully said and I couldn’t agree more. So, thank you, brother.
Nick: Yeah. Thanks, Cam. Talk soon.
Cam: Thank you again to Nick for coming on the podcast and thank you to everybody for listening. Hope you enjoy this episode. If you have any questions, if you want to get in contact with me, please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram via DMs @tripsitting.blog or send me an email, email@example.com. Thanks again and we’ll see you next week.
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