The Scary Side of Using Psychedelics in Spiritual Retreats

Writer’s note: I am a big believer in the healing power/abilities of plant medicines as a tool to reaching greater levels of understanding of who you are. Medicines are not to be abused, disrespected or used alone. If used properly, you have a trusted support system in place who can help you integrate the teachings, and understand the many positive and potentially negative outcomes prior to ingesting them, they can change your life in the most incredible ways. I continue to journey with the sacred medicines when they call to me. Always consult a physician/therapist/ professional before consuming.

When I say the word: psychedelics, what is the first feeling or image that comes to your mind?

If you presented me with this question a month ago, I would be the FIRST one to excitedly tell you all the miraculous experiences you are going to have experimenting. How you would know thyself as a true consciousness who resides within a container of carbon. I’d tell you that you would be blessed enough to revisit your childhood through a lens and understand yourself more. That you could potentially heal deeply buried wounds you were previously led to believe no longer hurt. I’d always be the first to tell you how amazing and sacred these medicines are and how they have changed my life. Psychedelics have altered my mindset, my consciousness levels. It has mostly erased my depression and anxiety plus, overhauled some of my limiting beliefs and now I realize the infinite power of love.

While psychedelics do all of these things, I didn’t take into account what can happen when these sacred plant medicines are not used properly. That with everything, there is risk and reward.

I didn’t take into consideration the dangers lurking in the shadows because I had always known them to be exquisitely beautiful and life-altering opportunities to improve myself. I had always been offered a safe space to explore the unknown, the unseen and of course, aliens. I had never been presented with feelings of fear around the consequences of overdosing/measuring mishaps because I had such strong trust within my own judgement. I didn’t take into account the intentions of others, where the plants originate, who may have handled or mishandled them and the most terrifying of all: the ill-prepared/untrained leaders who provide and serve the medicine. All of these mentioned above would soon become my greatest teachers and allow me to share both the light and hidden darkness in the world of psychedelics, spiritual retreats, Shamans, so-called healers. They would soon give me a gift of knowledge that would one day help others in their quest for self-development and how to safely and properly find trust-worthy and reputable spaces in which to heal.

It is extremely important to understand that not everyone in the spiritual “plant ceremony/retreat” community is working with full integrity. It is imperative that if you are choosing a retreat (especially with cacao, cannabis, mushrooms or Ayahuasca) that you:

1. Do. Your. Research.

In this most recent retreat experience, this was something I skipped over. Why? Because I trusted someone who posted it online. Plus, it sounded like a fun way to spend a long weekend whilst meeting new people and learning more about how I could one day run my own retreats. I did NOT research the hosts, the leaders, their mission statements, what kind of land the space was on. I did not read reviews. THIS IS MY RESPONSIBILITY and I take full ownership for this piece. If you are having a good feeling about a retreat, please don’t let that be the only guiding point. Ask questions!

2. Ask important questions

I had no questions because I felt confident that this was a good fit for me. I spoke to the host on the phone (this is a requirement for any retreat host that is offering plant medicines so they can ask about your medical history ensuring there are no dangerous interactions. If they do not require an interview with you first, run.) I also take full responsibility for not asking:

  • What training do you have as a Healer?
  • Do you have trauma-informed certification?
  • Where do you source the plants from?
  • Do you have impeccable knowledge of what each plant does and how it works on the mind/body/spirit?
  • What is your why for hosting this retreat? (Unfortunately, there are many healers whose “why” is money disguised as “abundance” and not purely of service)

3. TRUST YOUR GUT.

If something feels off, IT IS. It actually is. Pay attention to the signals in your body (ie. sudden onslaught of a migraine, stomachaches/feeling nauseated) Your body will get loud when you are deliberately ignoring your inner knowing. Never allow anyone to discount your gut feelings or tell you that it’s probably “just your Spirit Guides.” Not only is ignoring your body cues/gut dangerous, (it could be trying to warn you of what’s to come that is not in alignment with the participants intentions of healing), you could be missing something you cannot see yet.

The other dangerous factors involved in spiritual retreats/healing offerings is that there is no governing organization or board of directors who oversee retreats. That means ANYONE can host and offer psychedelics. There is no schooling or education a facilitator is required to study in. No mentors to guide them. No knowledge of trauma or the plant medicines themselves. There is no level of requirement or any one to report to. The level of responsibility is based on their personal value system. Or worst of all, a past life.

I have been part of an Ayahausca ceremony where a participant was sexually molested by a Shaman who was a trusted healer. I myself have been paralyzed physically due to an overdose of psychedelics not monitored by the facilitator. To hear my story, go here:

https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-bad-trip/id1519433942?i=1000565974040

If you are considering attending a retreat, I invite you to be assertive in your questioning, trusting of your intuition and do your research. A simple referral from a friend is not enough. A five-star review on their instagram account might not mean it’s a yes. Just because they can host ceremonies, have a beautiful space filled with books on crystals, sage, oil-infused soaps and claim “high-vibrational life changes” does not equal QUALIFIED TO OFFER THEM TO YOU.

I have had more positive, loving experiences than negative. This is to help you make informed decisions about your healing journey and to prevent others from experiencing trauma. I have a much louder voice now. I will use my trauma to assist others and to one day host my own healing retreats where everyone is safe.

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