Learning to listen
You'll get to know yourself better as new meanings emerge over the days and weeks following your experience. You may become aware of beliefs you didn't even realize you held and how they influence your behavior. Memories from childhood may surface. As you open to your emotions, you may recognize what's truly important.
Integration begins by creating a soft, gentle landing back into reality when coming down from your psychedelic experience. A light meal and the presence of a loving guide or friend can help ground you as you transition back to a non-altered state.
Regardless of your journey, you may want to spend most of the following day grounding, relaxing, and reflecting. Let yourself rest and readjust to new perceptions. You'll likely feel vulnerable and raw if you experienced a challenging journey. If you had a blissful rollercoaster ride through magical realms, you might feel a bit let down by the mundanity of life.
Either way, ideally, you can treat yourself to a healthy and peaceful day off. You can spend the day being with a loved one, listening to your favorite music, walking in nature, having nourishing meals, or doing whatever else allows you to enjoy yourself. Replenish your body with plenty of water and electrolytes.
You may have groundbreaking revelations about your partner, job, or living situation during your journey. You may feel the need to make drastic changes immediately. However, the few days after your trip are usually not the best time to make major decisions. Give yourself time to reflect on the experience before making any significant changes.
You will naturally begin reflecting on the experience soon after you come down and for a few days after your journey day. Writing or recording a trip report or drawing what you saw on your journey may be helpful. Focus on any visions, thoughts, memories, blockages, or somatic sensations you experienced.
Self-reflection means to observe what arises in your heart, mind, and body. Engage in some quiet contemplation to review what you saw, heard, realized, or otherwise experienced during your trip. An essential part of reflection is distinguishing between your observation (what your senses tell you) and your interpretation (what it all means).
While reflecting on your experience, ask yourself the following questions:
Take time to reflect and answer these questions. During your reflections, you may realize a particular vision or experience has more significance than you initially thought. Or not. Reflection is a process that continues long after the psychedelic journey.
After you've let the experience settle, it's time to start unpacking its meaning. Looking back at the visions you wrote or drew, ask yourself what they mean to you. How do they make you feel? What do they remind you of? Often, the meaning lies not in what you see but how you relate to it.
Trusting your intuition— your gut feeling—is integral to the practice. Intuition is often called "the sixth sense" for a reason. Do you feel like you 'know' things as clearly as if you were seeing them right before you? Do you have unexplained hunches or inclinations you usually brush off as unmerited?
When reflecting on your psychedelic experience, pay attention to this 'unexplainable' knowledge. Learning to be aware of and listen to your intuition is a developed skill that takes time and practice to develop, especially for those who have experienced significant traumas. If you don't know what your intuition is saying yet, it's ok.
The subconscious mind can remember much more about your psychedelic experience than the conscious mind. While on the medicine, your brain formed new connections and patterns. Sometimes, these new pathways can be too complex for conscious processing, so your brain is trying to alert you on a subconscious level.
Pay attention to these feelings. Trust those feelings. As the great poet Rumi once said, "There is a voice that doesn't use words. Listen."
If you confront your shadow, you might discover parts of yourself you've repressed or forgotten or come to terms with shameful behaviors you must address. If you encounter mystical consciousness, you might ask yourself questions about the nature of reality and life. You might experience a new zest for life or a desire to change what's not working.
Remembering your intentions allows you to see the positives of your psychedelic experience. When you see the desired outcomes, you may realize any challenging period of your trip was worth it.
What did you want from the psychedelic? It might be helpful to write down your intention if you didn't do so before your journey. Was your purpose fulfilled? The medicine often brings you closer to your desired results in ways you didn't expect.
If you intended to stop caring what other people think of you but still care after the experience, take a step back and reassess. What causes you to care what other people think of you? Is it insecurity? A compulsive desire to please others?
Surely, you've gained insight into these matters during your experience. If you can recognize and sit with these patterns, you can make the necessary changes to achieve your original intention. However, this process may take much longer than you imagine. Psychedelics are not a magic pill, but they can be great teachers in learning how to adapt.
How did the experience change your views? Even if the journey did not address your original intention, did you learn other lessons? Sometimes, the most uncomfortable and painful journeys are the most humbling and transformative.
Life can teach and humble us through painful lessons. Sometimes, we need to feel insignificant to realize our power. Sometimes, we need to feel powerless to cultivate gratitude.
It's vital to incorporate the lessons into practical activities you can do daily. In creating an action plan, you may focus on integration practices that nourish your entire life in the realms of body, mind, spirituality, community, and environment.
This holistic approach represents an integrated way of living that allows positive change to trickle into your relationships, communities, and environment. Whatever practices you choose work best when serving you and the world.
Integration is a great time to try new things, as your brain is more open to learning after your journey. But make sure these practices are doable and feel good - this process is not about adding more stress, pressure, and rigidity to your life. Ideally, you would have started at least one of these practices before starting your psychedelic journey, but there is always time to start.
While integration is unique to each individual, it may sometimes require further sessions or modalities to complete an unfinished process, especially if old traumas resurface or you relive a birth or death experience.
If you haven't already, you may wish to foster relationships with specialists, therapists, and healers who have experience working with trauma or people who are using psychedelics. Psychedelic Support, MAPS Integration List, and Being True to You, Somatic Experiencing, may provide support options.
Having someone to talk with about your experience is a crucial part of your healing journey. This person(s) does not have to be a professional. Still, it can be helpful to work with someone with many years of experience with a specific mental/emotional/spiritual issue.