After The Trip: Immediate Psychedelic Integration Techniques
By Sherree M. Godasi
Following your transformational psychedelic experience, engaging in immediate integration techniques can be beneficial for your mind, body and spirit. While there might be a temptation to translate the experience into meaning or a need to understand it better, trust that this will happen in due time. For the days following a psychedelic session, a wise strategy is focusing on grounding, nurturing and recovering activities in order to return to a balanced state of being.
Though any felt effects such as perceptual distortions and an out-of body feeling are deceased after the typical 6-8 hours duration of the psychedelic session (for most of the popular psychedelics), the substance still remains in your body and its neurobiological and energetic effects can last up to two weeks (or longer, depending on the substance) as the brain recovers its normal chemistry. During this interim stage of recovery, as new neural pathways were formed in the psychedelic state, they are more malleable than usual. For this reason you may be more sensitive to external stimuli, more open and raw emotionally as well as energetically, more empathetic and thus more suggestable and vulnerable to new ideas.
With this in mind, here are some general integration guidelines for the first two weeks following the psychedelic session:
View this period as an inseparable, non-negotiable part of “work” of psychedelic journeying and time of high Self-care. Indulge in activities that feel supportive of this concept.
It is advised to protect your personal space as much as possible as the insights and healing will continue to unfold for as long as you remain in stillness.
Keep a light schedule to allow proper rest, recovery and integration.
Eat nourishing foods such as organic produce, pressed juices, super-food containing smoothies, nuts and seeds, legumes and whole grains. Citrus fruits/juices and high antioxidant foods such as berries and pomegranates are recommended.
Supplements such as nootropics, green tea capsules and 5-HTP can be taken starting the morning after MDMA sessions and continued for a week.
Refrain from alcoholic drinks, additional mind-altering substances, any type of media and large social gatherings.
If you wish to share your experience with others, choose people who are familiar with altered states and whom you trust fully. However, there are some benefits to sitting with the experience and allowing it to develop further before turning it into a “story”. Consider that every time you retell the story, its essence gets muddled and insights may get lost and re-lost in translation.
Be mindful that some activities can be more grounding and centering - body heavy; as opposed to activating and stimulating - consciousness heavy. Choose integration activities based on your experience and those that would complement it best with an intention of balance. For example, if your journey was very deep and you feel that you were very much “in it”; experienced an “ego death”; experienced a heavy alteration or loss of connection to body, time, space and reality; journey was disorienting; or potentially challenging - one might benefit more from activities that are grounding and bring them back to their body and every day reality.
Make use of local integration circles to connect with other individuals who are on a similar path of psycho-spiritual healing.
For therapeutic-oriented experiences, an integration session with a professional coach/therapist/healer should be scheduled for less than a week following the experiential session.
Additional immediate integration techniques:
Connect with natural elements, touch the earth, spend time in water, walk in the mountains, hug a tree and allow it to support you.
Take a shower/bath, mind cleanliness, perform a ritual for purification, nurture yourself. Spend time in a spa, hot tub or another body of water. Sit in nature with your feet dipping in a creek. Sit in a hot sauna to accelerate detox of psychedelic remnants.
Replenish your body to rehydrate and rejuvenate. Drink plenty of water with/without lemon slices, cucumber and mint; amp your electrolyte content with coconut water or gatorade; enjoy herbal (non-caffeinated) teas. Stir away from caffeinated and sugary drinks.
Ingest micronutrients: drink organic juices and smoothies with plenty of superfood powders; eat raw organic fruits/veggies; choose high-antioxidant foods such as berries of all varieties, pomegranate, green tea and citrus; minerals such as sodium, potassium and magnesium are beneficial.
Take supplements/nootropics for neurochemistry restoration (Entheozen is a good brand).
Eat grounding foods: red meat, potatoes, root vegetables, lentils, beans, onions, garlic, olives, spices, curries, hearty soups like pho and chicken soup, chillies (think opposite of medicine dieta).
Rest is key: you might be utterly exhausted even if during the session you didn’t feel a heavy exertion of energy. The body, mind and spirit have been worked through and ‘sleeping it off’ can release any residual tension
Employ sexual release, touch and/or masturbation to release primal energy.
Protect your energetic space by minimizing day to day stimuli
Eliminate unnecessary stress: take a day off work, don’t run errands
Take a media diet vow: stay off of social media (!) and other media outlets such as reading the news or watching netflix. You might be amazed at what this does to your emotional well-being
Talk with someone that you trust and is familiar and/or experienced with altered states of consciousness: professional, friends, family, community circles
Sleeping - the psyche integrates and “purges” overwhelming material load through dreams
Stay cozy and snug, read a good book in bed, listen to soft music
Create space for feelings, most importantly give yourself permission to feel: allow tears to flow, sobbing, anger, grief, disappointment, confusion - it’s all OK. There is no need to figure anything out right now (in fact that might make it more stressful) but be with what is, observe, and let things be. Confusion is part of the healing.
Stir away from judgement, denial and running away - repressing or avoiding any feelings and thoughts related to the experience is a recipe for disappointment and struggle later. Better to deal with it now by allowing nature to take its course
Remain in a clean, calming and organized environment - stay home, go to a temple, visit god’s church - nature
Meditate on your experience or use guided meditations through youtube/meditation apps.
Connect with a higher power, ask it for guidance and healing. This can be Jesus, Buddha, your inner healer and/or the medicine spirit
Engage in dialogue with the medicine spirit - remember it is still in the body even without felt effects and will likely continue speaking to you for as long as you are willing to listen
Pray, state your wishes, desires, hopes and dreams of what support you need at the moment, less the change you want to see (be careful what you ask for as prayers are potent like magic spells!)
Practice loving kindness and compassion. Ex. Ho’oponopono: I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you
Create your own centering, empowering mantra; repeat it daily or throughout the day. Write it on your bathroom mirror with a whiteboard marker. Ex. I love myself, I trust myself, I know myself, I heal myself
Practice presence, stillness, patience and trust.
Journaling: The Paper Purge
As soon as you can following the experience, it is advisable to record down everything you remember. You may do so through talking and recording your voice on your phone, or better yet - handwriting in your journal. You may view this exercise as a “Paper Purge” - writing anything that relates to the experience by ways of free association or a “Stream of Consciousness”. A linear, play-by-play description of the journey or cohesion is currently not important or necessary. Later on (after the immediate integration phase is over) you will use this information to extract themes and concepts that you can interpret into actionable integration practices.
Objectives of the paper purge:
To access and retain information and insights that were gained in the psychedelic state before they return to the unconscious
To ingrain them into our consciousness by ways of repetition
To help deepen the insights, bring more understanding and broaden the picture, bring more resolution
To stimulate the psyche to release additional psychic material
To bring to our awareness fragments of the experience which might have already been forgotten
If words don’t come easily (and they often don’t!) expressing the ineffable through art is an excellent way for the psyche to compensate for verbal blockage. The Stream of Consciousness can be freed through art mediums, keeping the dialogue with your consciousness active: using colored pencils, crayons, markers, water colors, a simple pen, sit in stillness, revive the experience in your mind, and put your hand to paper or canvas, allowing it to flow freely as a means of unconscious and non-directed expression.
And how do you know when the immediate integration stage is over, and it is time to move into the long-tern integration stage of taking conscious, meaningful action on your insights? This of course if different for everyone. You might notice a shift into a state of vitality, rejuvenation, balance and a readiness to move forward with your newfound knowledge. Parts of the experience might have come with a crystal-clear understanding as to the action that needs to be taken; others need more time to mature and ask us to be patient as we listen, grow and mature along with it. Trust that you will know when time is right; in the meantime relish in taking care of yourSelf.