Psychedelic Integration 101
Why integration is the conduit for change and how to make a plan
Psychedelic journeys are all about intentions, right?
Yes, intentions will influence your experience going in, but integration is what will influence your life coming out of it.
After a psychedelic experience, you have a unique opportunity for real, lasting change. But to claim it, you need to do the work.
“After the ecstasy, the laundry”, as renowned meditation teacher Jack Kornfield says.
Psychedelics are no magic pills, and no matter how rewarding the experience, it’s your ability to integrate it into your life that will determine its impact.
“Enlightenment has no value until it’s lived.” — Byron Katie
Integration is what helped me morph from a depressed, disconnected, and addicted workaholic into a free, joyful, healthy, and connected human.
Read on for the reflection prompts, techniques, and practices that have helped and continue to help me integrate psychedelic journeys over the last three years.
Immediately After Your Experience, Journaling Is the Best Way to Start Processing
The first thing you’ll want to do after your experience is to journal about it. Ideally within three days, at most within a week.
Psychedelic journeys are intense. Your consciousness is altered. Repressed emotions may rise to the surface. You may relieve traumatic memories. You may experience ego dissolution or universal consciousness.
It can feel impossible to find words to describe your experience but finding words will be exactly what will help you make sense of what happened.
After all, humans are sense-making beings. And we use language to do so.
I suggest a three-step process for your integration journaling.
Step 1: Reflect in detail on your experience
In this initial reflection, I invite you to explore your inner world and look deeply into your heart.
You can start by creating a journey log, noting down everything that happened from thoughts to visions to physical sensations you’ve had. Note down every detail you remember, however random it may seem.
Next, you’ll do some further pondering. Here are some helpful questions:
What are three words that best summarize your experience?
What feelings are most alive in your body as you reflect on your journey?
What parts of you did you let go of? Any parts of you that died?
What felt most challenging, what felt most rewarding?
What are the key insights you’ve had? What are some questions or curiosities that have come up?
Step 2: Choose a few priorities to focus your integration on
Psychedelic journeys often leave you with a lot of takeaways — both big and small ones. If you try to do everything, you won’t be very effective. Hence, you want to focus your energy on a few select themes.
As you review your list above, especially insights and questions, ask yourself: What feels most alive?
Pick a few select themes to prioritize in your integration plan.
Step 3: Make a plan for your integration
Intentions mean little without action.
The plan will help you process insights that have come up or are coming up in the coming weeks. It will help you further explore what perhaps you were surprised to learn. It will help you integrate the teachings into your daily life, and with that, it can change the way you live.
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Psychedelic Experiences Need to Be Integrated Spiritually, Emotionally, and Physically
For your integration plan, let’s look at three core dimensions:
Psychedelic experiences allow you to get in touch with spirit, a higher power, your highest self, universal consciousness — whatever you want to call it.
Psychedelic research conducted at Johns Hopkins has shown that it was those mystical psychedelic experiences that reliably lead to positive changes.
“In order to have self-expression, we must first have a self to express.” - Anton Chekhov
To integrate mystical experiences spiritually, you can review your notion of Self (core beliefs you have about yourself), values (what’s important to you), and your habits (how you show up in the world day-to-day).
Here are some questions to reflect on:
What did you learn about yourself? What core beliefs did you uncover? Which of these are harmful and which are helpful?
What feels most important to you coming out of this journey? How does this align with core values going into the experience? Any gaps?
What kind of person do you want to be going forward? What kind of relationships do you want to cultivate?
Psychedelic journeys are deeply emotional experiences. They can bring rise to repressed emotions and help you process them.
Sometimes, the processing of an emotion is completed during the journey itself. Other times, an experience may bring something to the surface of your awareness, but the process won’t be completed yet. Because of that, there’s an incredibly wide range of how you can feel after a deep inner journey.
However you feel immediately after your journey, emotions coming to the surface is always in your favor, independent of the speed with which you move through them. By working on emotional resilience, you minimize the risk of overwhelm or avoidance.
Here are some questions to consider for your emotional integration:
What kind of emotions came up during your journey? Were they familiar or not? How do you feel towards these emotions?
To what extent do you feel like you processed these emotions fully during your journey? Which emotions will need further processing?
What are some ways you typically process emotions? How may those show up in the coming weeks? Which of your emotion-driven behaviors are avoidant or harmful, and why?
How can you adopt more adaptive emotional responses? How can you best support yourself in processing these emotions?
What support can you ask for from family, friends, or professionals? Is there anyone who might be able to help you process your emotions?
At their core, emotions are simply physical sensations that you give meaning to. Emotions are quite literally energy in motion intended to flow through your body. When you experience trauma or repress your emotions, you interrupt the process.
Trauma is not what happens to you, but how you interpret it, combined with the fact that you weren’t able to process it in the moment.
If that happens, your emotions won’t just fade away.
Your body remembers.
As psychiatrist Bessel Van Der Kolk argues, “The Body Keeps the Score”.
“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.”- Friedrich Nietzsche
Given this strong connection between your physicality and your emotional world, devoting some time to somatic integration can be instrumental in your healing journey. There are many different practices to explore. These practices can be anything that makes you feel more embodied and more connected to Self.
Here are some prompts to get started on a plan for your somatic integration:
What are some ways to explore mindful movement that feel supportive in the coming weeks? For example yoga, nature walks, intuitive movement
What are some somatic therapies that you feel may be helpful to explore? Some modalities that may be helpful are Somatic Experiencing or breathwork, massage therapy, or Reiki
What are some changes to your physical environment that you’d like to make? Some ideas could be writing affirmations on mirrors or post-its, buying a plant that serves as a reminder, creating a small altar to host objects that are sacred to you, putting up some candles or incense, and so on
What are some changes to your digital environment that you’d like to make? Is there anything you’d like to declutter on your computer or phone? Any people you’d like to unfollow? Any apps you’d like to delete? Perhaps you want to limit your screen time all together?
Practices Are the Bread and Butter of Your Psychedelic Integration
Practices are key to spiritual, emotional, and somatic integration. Journaling is a beautiful one to get started with, but there are plenty more, as teased above.
They mainly serve two functions: connection to Self and community.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite integration practices:
Integration coaching and/or circles
Talk therapy (especially IFS)
I will talk more about some of these practices in the coming weeks.
If you feel like your peak experiences were profound, I cannot wait for you to witness the shifts they can produce when integrated intentionally.
That is to say when you do your laundry.
Laundry you’ve perhaps been avoiding for years.
Laundry you just couldn’t get clean.
Suddenly, you’re presented with a super detergent.
These medicines can gift you clarity and direction, but they can’t walk the path for you. That you can only do yourself.
Thanks for reading. Please share any reflections or feedback, I’d love to hear from you. Don’t forget to share this if you know someone who might find it helpful.