For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been staunchly, vehemently against drugs. So it came as a real shock to my friends and family when I announced that I’d be going to Amsterdam to take psilocybin (magic mushrooms). Even though it was a safe, legal, supported setting with a skilled therapist, my family were still a little freaked out by the whole prospect!
So what persuaded me to change my mind and volunteer for my first ever experience of a psychedelic drug?
You may have read about new research showing the remarkable effects of magic mushrooms in treating a host of mental disorders, such as depression, addictions and PTSD. You can read about some of the latest research showing psilocybin’s effects on treating depression here.
There’s a lot of hype around this ground-breaking area of plant medicine and I wanted to experience this for myself so that I could share an honest, first-person account with you.
As you’ll hear in this mini video I recorded, the experience was not at all what I expected!
After the experience, I chatted to Jonathan de Potter, Founder & CEO of Behold Retreats – a bespoke wellness service that facilitates journeys of self-discovery and transformation, supported by the scientifically proven benefits of plant medicine therapy. Jonathan is passionate about raising awareness of the benefits of plant medicine therapy and its potential to improve wellbeing and mental health outcomes.
Here are three takeaways from our conversation:
- Most of us are not connected to our true purpose, partly because of traumas and limiting beliefs accumulated in childhood.
- Psychedelic drugs can expand our mind and create new neural pathways, allowing us to open up new possibilities for how we respond to life’s challenges.
- These are extremely powerful medicines that can lead us to very strange places – both physically and mentally. Taking psychedelic drugs can generate profoundly challenging experiences and it’s impossible to predict what will surface.
This is undoubtedly one of the most eye-opening conversations I’ve ever shared. You can listen to the full conversation on the Wellness Unwrapped podcast here. You can also find a transcript of our conversation below.
[Please note this is a computer-generated transcript]
SG: Jonathan, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m really, really looking forward to this conversation. I think it’s going to be a really juicy one because it’s about a very, very hot topic, which is psychedelic drugs. And as we record this with the first week of January, it’s been all over the papers this week, certainly in the UK, all about magic mushrooms and results of trials that are going on. So I feel this is a fantastic time to be discussing this. So thank you.
JP: It’s a pleasure to reconnect and to go deeper on the subject. So thanks for having me.
SG: Absolutely. Because we’ve spoken a couple of times before, and what I’d love to do is start by asking you to tell listeners how you got on the journey that you are on presently because your back story is so fascinating and so unexpected from the background that you came from, So can you can you tell us like what are you doing here? Discussing psychedelic drugs.
JP: You know, I grew up actually with quite hippie parents, Quite alternative and quite spiritual parents. And yet from a young age, I went very much in the other direction, so rejected anything of a spiritual nature and was very much an atheist myself. Went into the corporate world very blessed to have a successful career, Um, spending, uh, New Zealand in Hong Kong and subsequently Bangkok, um, working predominantly as a strategy consultant, management, consulting. Um, and, you know, I guess, really, The turning point came when I lived in Hong Kong, which is really fast paced city, Um, and after five years, they’re kind of chasing the next client. The next deal, the next promotion, the next thing. I really just felt within myself that there wasn’t going to be any incremental joy from the next thing. Uh, and so that was a real, um, I suppose a real a real point at which I had to look myself in the mirror and go. I don’t know what else is out there, but I know that this can’t be yet. There has to be more to life. Um, and so that’s at that point in time, I decided to take a year off.
And as part of that, I went and participated in an ayahuasca retreat with two of my friends in Peru. And that was easily the most mind-boggling, challenging experience and few days of my life. And I was shown so much, uh, but subsequently also recognised that I wasn’t prepared for the experience. Didn’t know what I was getting myself into had such a challenging time. Didn’t integrate the experience. Well, um, And so as a result of all of those things and the subsequent work that followed over the years that came to pass many more retreats, many more challenging situations, uh, and kind of muddling my way through really motivated me to establish behold retreats and to guide people on these journeys with a little bit more around it.
SG: Thank you for that. So, Jonathan, for those listeners who are not familiar, you’ve never heard of ayahuasca. What is it?
JP: Ayahuasca s a combination of two plants confusingly. It’s a very complex medicine. It has a number of traditions through Central and South America. Many traditions brew it in combination with other plants, in addition to just those two, Um, and, of course, each and every plant. And so each and every proof is, has its own energy, its own unique, this uniqueness to it. Um, one of our advisors, he’s done quite a bit of work, scientific work with ayahuasca. The medicine itself has 463 compounds within it. So it’s a highly complex medicine, far more so than what we typically find within the pharmaceutical world, which is really about, you know, trying to develop and design a single molecule and then trying to find, um, you know, the miracles that that single molecule may be able to perform for us.
So it’s a medicine that’s, um, that’s that’s very broad. In that sense, it certainly works on the level of body, mind, heart and spirit. Um, and so again, it’s holistic from that approach, um, and is, as you might have expected from from our introduction to this conversation, it’s highly psychedelic. Um, And so the underlying psychedelic molecule is DMT. Which is also known as the spirit molecule. Um, ayahuasca specifically is also known for its I would say it’s strong purgative and detoxification effect. So it’s very much necessary that we often need to remove chemicals and other impurities from our physical body as a precedent to actually achieving harmonisation a single vibration across across the mind and body, and to be able to reach higher states of consciousness and have mystical experiences. Which is, of course, a large part of what this work is all about.
SG: All right, so there’s a lot of puking?
JP: Yes, for me. So it was interesting because, uh, as I mentioned before my first retreat, I was with two friends and we had wildly different experiences. You know, my my best friend had zero purging and a very profound and powerful journey. You know, he was laughing for hours on his side of his side of the tent. My other friend had all of the purging and none of the profundity. Um, so it was just nothing but torture, and I was somewhere in the middle, so I had a lot of purging but also had a pretty profound experience. So it’s, you know, with these experiences, they’re very non deterministic. It’s absolutely the case that it’s best not to go in with too much in the way of expectations.
You know, I think, um, there’s a lot of organisations, including our own, uh, that are inclined to perhaps, you know, up weight the good and kind of downplay some of the challenges that can arise from these, um, these circumstances or from these experiences. So it’s always in everyone’s best interest to make sure that, you know, quality research has done the head of signing up for an experience or retreat.
SG: So what we’re talking about here is plant medicine, which again a lot of listeners will not be familiar with the term. So I wondered if you could give us just rewinding a little bit now, Jonathan, to when this whole area of research started to emerge quite a few decades ago now and there started to be this a lot of interest in psychedelic drugs, And could you kind of just give us a very potted history of what happened and then white then went underground. And now we’ve had this huge resurgence over the past few years.
JP: Yeah, I’m actually going to start a little bit further back, if that’s OK. So, yes, we have. We have evidence of plant medicine traditions from virtually every continent in the world over time.
SG: Can you define for us plant medicine? Yeah, sure. So, typically, what’s included within that category confusingly, is, uh, plant medicines as well as fungi. So magic mushrooms is a fungus, strictly speaking, but still often considered within the category of plant medicine. Um, then we have plants, for example, like San Pedro or P O. T. Which are central and South American. The underlying molecule there is masculine. Uh, Ayahuasca also fits within the category. Um, and then we also have, uh what is actually synthetics or animal medicines are all also sometimes included within the category. So, for example, 5-MeO-DMTive comes in the forms of plant medicine, animal medicine, and also a synthetic uh is commonly used. So the the term itself is a bit ambiguous in that regard And then, you know, when we talk about psychedelics, then it’s a slightly broader category, which would also include things like LSD, Um, and increasingly, people are also inclined to include ketamine and M D M A. As psychedelic because they are on a ketamine, is legal, and M. D M An is on a faster track to legalisation.
So forces that are commercial interests that are that are motivated to go to market obviously would like to rebrand something along the lines of ketamine is a psychedelic so that they can begin to serve customers with quote unquote psychedelic medicine.
SG: Yeah, it’s a very interesting point. There’s actually been in The Guardian newspaper just a few days ago. I think it was an article entitled Magic Mushrooms are now on NASDAQ. That’s a recipe for a bad trip. And it was very much warning that all these commercial interests piling in to jump on the bandwagon is not going to be such a fabulous thing necessarily.
JP: I’m glad you I’m glad you raised that because it’s the energy that sits behind the company and the motivation that is so fundamental to these experiences. Um and so for example. You know some of our healers, Um, they only they only buy mushrooms, magic mushrooms from a place that sings mantras, songs to the magic mushrooms each and every day. And if I had heard that five years ago, I would have laughed and cringed and then like, what sort of crazy people are they? But now I absolutely understand that it’s all energy, and it’s all energetic.
And so when they’re pouring that love and that energy into the medicines themselves that that that eventuate in the quality of the experience and it has a massive impact. In contrast, when you hear about, you know, commercial interests that are talking about building a 50,000 square foot facility and you know the amount of throughput and you know dot, dot dot it’s just it’s a completely different set of of motivations. And the fields of the medicines themselves can be very much affected, depending upon the motivations that sits behind them.
SG: So going back to the history. So, yes, when do they start being used? And for what?
JP: Yes, So there’s actually there’s a There’s a great YouTube video called the Stoned Ape Theory, and the theory behind that is that these substances have actually been fundamental to our evolution. Um, so over the past 200,000 years, our prefrontal cortex has really grown quite exponentially and quickly and without any other reasonable, um, reasonable, uh, kind of explanation to be, to be perfectly honest. So when this was first coined, I think it was in the late sixties, it was considered quite a kind of a bit of a crackpot sort of a theory.
But since then, it’s really gained ground amongst the academics. And, you know, I’m close with the gentleman, who posts a lot of content as the psychedelic scientists. And he says that it’s generally accepted across most neurologists that yes, indeed, that we came out of the out of the jungle and onto the savannah and began to pick up mushrooms. You know, in, uh, in the savannah, Uh, and that fundamentally, you know, these are mind expanding experiences that facilitate the improvement in empathy and in court and encourage.
And so that has kind of propagated over time and is fundamentally what has led to our species being what we are today. Um, so it’s, um there’s a lot more. I actually I’m told that there’s some deeper research coming out from Harvard within the next year that is going to lend a lot more weight to that theory, which is pretty exciting. So looking specifically at, yeah, how our brain is fundamentally wired for these experiences and how these plants fit so perfectly into our brain that it could just not be, uh, coincidence by any stretch of the imagination.
So again, slight tangent. But, you know, in essence, then you know, fast forwarding a little bit. Let’s let’s go to kind of, uh, Colonial times. And I think what we can see from documentation in Colonial times is a pretty sustained effort to wipe out plant medicine tradition. So often these were called the witches within given cultures. And so, you know, you have to ask, what is it that these people were doing that was so bad that they needed to be killed? Clearly, it was pretty bad. Whatever they were doing.
Um, and fundamentally, I think there were religious as well as political forces that were interested in the use of control of people in order to further their causes. And so, you know, colonial forces wiped out plant medicine traditions from virtually everywhere in the world, except those places where it was difficult to reach in and wipe out. And so that’s not a coincidence that these wisdom traditions have kind of re emerged from high in the Andes from deep in the Amazon. Because those are the places the colonial colonialism was never able to get to, um and then kind of winding, you know, forward to more modern times.
Um, you know, I guess I think it was. LSD was discovered first in the 19 twenties, if I remember correctly. But it wasn’t really until the 1950s that the 1st wave of psychedelic science took place, and that was really oriented predominantly around LSD. And it was used for very broad variety of mental health disorders. Addictive disorders, Um, and with with quite some success, unfortunately, most of that science is needed to be thrown out just because the our understanding of the scientific method and, you know, double blinding and all of those sorts of things has radically improved since the good old days.
But we had two decades of pretty good psychedelic science before, Um, before we reached a point where the magic had left the lab and now we had a whole bunch of people in California who were unwilling to pick up guns and go shoot at people in Vietnam that they never met before. And the U. S government didn’t like that very much. And so they didn’t like it so much that not only did they start the war on drugs, but they also require that the rest of the world signed up to the same war.
So through the U. N. As a vehicle, they actually made a a document that was required. Every other country signed this document to make these substances illegal in 1971. If they wish to continue trade with the U. S. In essence. So that was a real turning point because the U. S. Had the most knowledge of these substances. Certainly the rest of the world just kind of followed the lead in the U. S. And so the US was really the hero in 1971 in protecting the world from these substances, and ironically, they will be seen as the hero again when they re legalised these substances about 50 years later.So it’s a bit of a It’s a bit of a funny story.
SG: That really is. So there was a lot of very sound research with with these psychedelic drugs having fantastic effects with with all sorts of different mental health disorders. But then the research got shut down largely, and that was because people took fright, because this Harvard professor, Timothy Leary, was very flamboyant character. And he was, as you say, sort of inciting young people to take these psychedelic drugs drop out of college, etcetera. So there was basically a kind of knee jerk reaction, wasn’t there that everything was just clamped down and it kind of got almost forgotten about for for quite a while and then suddenly, like recently it’s just exploded, hasn’t it?
JP: It has. It has it really has.
SG: So can you tell us briefly what sorts of things currently that you see, people would take plant medicine for what sorts of struggles would there be kind of facing in their life? And what results would they see?
JP: So I guess I guess the place to start would be in relation to the paradigm that we find ourselves in right? Which is now most people are suffering from. We are predominantly in the west, suffering from diseases of abundance. Right? Um, and for many of us were still not happy, right? So we’re suffering from heart disease, were suffering from obesity, were said to be suffering from addictions, were suffering from social media. Too much time on social media. Uh, and so all of these things. And yet we in And, you know, most people have enough to cover for their worldly needs, and yet we’re still not content. And so I think we’ve reached a point in time, which finally, people are recognising that the only place that happiness can truly come from is from within us, Not that some external achievement is going to improve our quality of experience.
You know, it’s an inside job, definitely an inside job for sure, 100%. I mean, if you look at Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, you know, the first thing I see is these people aren’t happy, and I don’t know. It’s if it’s, you know, when they finally get their, you know, uh, five bedroom condo on Mars that they will be happy, but I very would be very much surprised because they’ll be the next thing. And so more and more people are recognising that it has to come from within.
And so when we speak about plant medicines, you know, I think there’s three overarching motivations that people that people enter the work with, which is number one healing. Right? So we’ve got many, Many, uh, we’ve got many generations of trauma, right? Uh, and so most of us who are coming from the West have come from colonial cultures and as a result of that, are carrying quite a bit in relation to that, and we can talk more about that effects of interest. Um, second, we’ve got our own traumas from our own life experience, and some of those are known.
Some of those are often unknown, uh, and so the medicines can really help us connect our parts of our brain that have actually been compartmentalised away from everyday waking consciousness. So there’s a lot of, you know, healing in terms of the mind. In terms of the body. That’s, um, that’s there. The second motivation, I would say, is creativity and growth. Right. So people who just want to expand their understanding of themselves, understanding their of the universe and the relationship between the two. Um And then, of course, spirituality.
You know, this, as I mentioned before, you know, some people haven’t yet in their adult lives had a spiritual experience, or they have and they’re pursuing, you know, uh, some sort of attainment, like enlightenment or something like that, or the process of enlightenment, which is never ending. Uh, and so they very much want to deepen their spirituality. And so those are the kind of three broad categories, um, in terms of motivations. And then what I always say to people is that it’s very important that they, of course, developed their own motivations in a very deep way, because these are powerful experiences.
And so the more we anchor, uh, for we anchor, our own motivation is the better off that these experiences will go.
SG: Okay, So, Jonathan, I’m going to pick you up on the on the trauma bit because I think I think that’s the one that I mean. Certainly I see mostly in my work as a health coach is, as you say, we’re all carrying stuff from a childhood, and you’re not necessarily talking about being attacked or being abused or or, you know, not necessarily trauma with a big T. But it might just be something as kind of ostensibly insignificant as your parents wanting you to get all A’s and you’ve got all A’s and a B when you were eight years old or something like that, and then carrying this limiting self belief, this, this feeling that you disappoint, that you’re unworthy throughout life. So can you tell us a little bit more about the sorts of things when you say trauma? Because you you’ve experienced it yourself, haven’t you?
JP: And most people have. So for me, you know, I by any measure of mental health, if I wind back five years by any measure of modern mental health, I would have been doing good. Very good. Um, you know, pretty busy, but good. Very good. And so I was very surprised, actually, when when I kind of was able to tap into some of the early childhood trauma that had happened to me because I had no prior recollection of the trauma. Uh, and so it was very surprising and very painful but also, um, deeply therapeutic to release the emotions and the energy that was just associated with these past experiences. You know, there was one experience in particular where I just I released a big trauma, and it felt like I came out of that experience 40 pounds physically lighter.
And that’s weight that’s just never returned to my being, um, and it’s quite inexplicable and irreducible to natural language. But, you know, when we tap into some of these things that have happened to us, um, it’s so powerful to be able to release them. So actually, I really love the example that you give that you gave their, you know, an ex girlfriend of mine. She remembers bringing home so proudly, uh, test score of 97%. And her dad turned to her and said, Where is the other 3?
And so, you know, in terms of that feeling good enough, you know, most of us feel like we’re not good enough. And so we are operating as a result of that from a position of fear, right or that, and we’re carrying all of these lower level emotions in our energetic and physical and emotional bodies. So we talk about shame, guilt, fear, apathy, anger, envy, pride. These are all lower level emotions that are keeping us really stuck. And there are traumas. There are early life experiences that have taken, you know, they have shall we say, altered our natural state of being.
You know, you look at a baby so innocent, so perfect. And yet something has happened between, you know, say that a baby and 25. And so there’s there’s generally speaking multiple traumas that have taken place. And so most of us have compartmentalised. Those that are that are painful. We don’t even we don’t even know that they’re there.
SG: Can you give us an idea if you’re happy to Jonathan, when you say you you felt like you released a big chunk of something that you didn’t even know was there? Are you happy to tell us like what it was? So people can sort of understand what you experienced like, did you remember a particular event?
JP: So the the experience was actually related to childhood sexual trauma. Um, and a very large percent of the population, unfortunately, has some of the same um, one of our healers has shared with me a number before. She thinks that something like 80% of our population has had similar sorts of trauma, and I know that’s inconceivable as a number. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that was accurate, because we’re all just traumatised and passing.
That is part of that intergenerational trauma, and it’s really dark. And it’s really twisted, and a lot of people have it. It’s really It’s really, really bad. And again, like, if I wind back five years I had the most loving, protective parents who never would have left me with strange people, and they would have done absolutely everything that child could ever drink for in parents. And yet something had happened. Um, and so it was. It was way down there, you know. It was really it was really hidden away from everyday waking consciousness.
And so, you know, I remember reading books about personal development and emotional development and all of these sorts of things, but I always felt like there was just some block and I didn’t have access to what that block was, um and so as soon as that was released, it was like Oh, that’s what it was. That’s why you know you sometimes our short circuited in terms of your anger and your frustration. And with that, you know it. Really? It really released a lot of those, um, those character traits that I really wasn’t able to explain.
Um, so if anyone you know anyone who feels like they have unexplained character traits, it’s very likely that that has a grounding in trauma. Um, and now plant medicine isn’t the only tool that can be used. You know, breathwork, meditation. There’s many others, too. Reconnect all regions of our brain so that we’re able to, um yeah, we’re able to process and ultimately release these traumas. Now a lot of people ask, Why would you want to re experience that right? It’s It’s something that’s in the past.
But ultimately these traumas are limiting our spiritual growth, right? So our natural state is to elevate in consciousness to continue to increase in vibration. And if we’ve got these traumas that are stored within our being, then we cannot continue to flower to expand, to grow in all you know all all vertex is of life and love and peace and joy and purpose and abundance that comes from those things were really just stuck. And, you know, I think at the moment we live in a world where so many people are doing a job and they’re doing the job fundamentally because they aren’t connected with their true purpose.
They’ve been disconnected from their soul. Um, and the reason for that is that, um is because of these traumas. Fundamentally. Um, and so, you know, when I speak to my old mentors from the business world Now, um, you know, I was very blessed to be guided by, you know, super heavy hitters. And the first question I always ask them is, What’s the one thing that would make you truly happy, truly fulfilled? And the truth of the matter is that these are, you know, high powered professionals who get paid millions of dollars per year to ask very smart questions.
Two very smart people, and they have no idea what would make them happy. And and the reason again, The reason for that is because they’re disconnected from their higher Selves. And we, collectively, as a society, are disconnected from our higher Selves. And so once we reconnect to that higher self and see Ah, I’m not this mind. I’m not this body. And I’m able to, uh I’m going to use the word dis identify with the neuroticism of the mind. Um, you know, it’s a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. As the quote goes, right.
And so once we’re able to return the mind to the rightful place in the hierarchy itself, then you know the spirit and the mind and the body can in the heart can align into what we truly are. And and that’s a very different human experience than someone who is traumatised and waking up early to respond to emails at six o’clock in the morning for a corporate overlord.
SG: Wow, we That’s yeah. I mean, it’s so true. It’s what most of us are stuck in, isn’t it? It’s going from the emails to the WhatsApp to this, that and the other and never really stopping to ask ourselves, Why are we here? You know, who are we really and what I really liked about your programme at Behold, because just just to kind of put this into context, you actually approached me and I was really fascinated by the whole thing because I felt that plant medicine and the whole psychedelic drugs scared me, scared me was something that I was very aware of the research, having initially first come across it at a conference in the US about maybe four years ago and had been absolutely blown away by the results. For magic mushrooms for this was for people, I think, suffering from depression. And it was the most astonishing results because I think it was just maybe one ceremony, one time that they had been given the psilocybin and the result was so remarkable and they actually lasted for months and months. They followed up, however, many months later, six months, whatever. And these people were still feeling happy, which is just incredible. I mean, you just don’t see results like that for drug resistant depression, and in fact, it was just yesterday I read in The Times there’s there’s been a new new research released new just in in the U. K. Just It was yesterday again for drug drug resistant depression using psilocybin.
So I was really interested in from that point of view just seeing so many people in my work who are suffering with depression, anxiety, binge eating disorder, all of these things. So for me, this was something I thought I really would love to see this becoming more mainstream, obviously here in the U. K. It’s a class A drug, so it’s not something that is I’m not saying it’s not used, but it’s not talked about because, um, it’s very hush hush. People are You are using it and you have to be on a on a trial, otherwise, you know, specific trial as part of the university or something, but otherwise it’s not accessible to anyone.
So when you contacted me, I was like, Mm, this feels like a bit of a nudge from the universe. But I should maybe try this, which is something I’ve always shied away from, but I’m always looking for I think, little indications from the universe and of of what? I’m kind of open to things, I guess, and I genuinely had a feeling that this was an invitation to go and try it for myself, which was something that I had talked to other people about their experiences and been very wowed and very or and even slightly envious, but had always felt this wasn’t something to me, that for me that I just wasn’t brave enough to try it, because I the thought of losing control of my mind, was just not appealing in anyway.
But I’d read Michael Pollan’s book How to Change Your Mind. I’d looked at all sorts of research and I started doing your course your programme, which was a seven week programme, and I absolutely loved it. I loved the fact that you weren’t just saying go and take a magic mushroom and your life will be different and you’ll be a different person and you won’t get angry again. But it was very much. Here’s how to work on your thoughts and your beliefs. And here’s how to zone in on goals and what you really want from life.
And there was a lot of work involved, a lot of introspection and journaling. I journal anyway. But I loved the whole process that you were putting this experience of psychedelic drugs within a much larger framework of going within. So I I thoroughly enjoyed the first three weeks and then I went to Amsterdam to actually take the psilocybin, and it was so funny in the lead up to it, Jonathan, because I I saw a friend of mine, a very, very good friend of mine who I have known for 25 years. And I told her what was going to do the following week and she said, first of all, she was like, Oh, my goodness, I can’t believe you’re doing that. I would never, ever do that. But she was very familiar with drugs, not herself. But she had seen people have very, very bad trips. And she said, as we said goodbye, she said, Suzy, this might be the last time I ever see you as you I said, What do you mean? She said, You might come back a totally different person and maybe you won’t want to know me.
And I was like, Don’t be ridiculous, you know, And I genuinely am still entirely me. And my husband. The morning I went, my husband just freaked out. I think he’d been kind of keeping a lid on it for a while, but he literally was like I don’t know where you’re going what you’re doing, who with. You know, you have a terrible reaction to wasp stings. How do you know you’re not gonna have a terrible reaction? How are we going to get you home?
Because it’s illegal here. What about the insurance? And I was like, Chill, chill. This is like it’s safe. It’s non toxic. You know, this is all going to be great. And actually, when he dropped me off at Manchester Airport, it was so funny because my last words to him were This is going to be so amazing that you’re going to want to do it. You mark my words, it’s going to be that amazing. And I had to eat my words.
And then while I was at the airport, I mean, you know how excited I was beforehand. I was very upbeat. I was quite confident. I wasn’t really anxious about it. I was just so looking forward to the whole thing. And I was in a queue waiting to check in at Manchester Airport, and I’m quite chatty. So I started chatting to a couple next to me and I think they were going to Denmark. I was obviously going to Amsterdam. We got chatting. I said, Are you going on holiday?
They said to me, are you going on holiday? And I said, Well, actually, since you asked No, I’m not going on holiday. And I explained why I was going to Amsterdam to take psilocybin, and they were like, Whoa! And the guy said, I took magic mushrooms while I was at university. I was in a squat. It was the most horrendous experience. There were 10 guys. We all thought we were going to die. And I was like Well, yes, but I’m doing it properly. I’m going to Amsterdam, doing it legally with a therapist. You know, my experience is gonna be nothing like yours. And you could see people like in the airport, like leaning in to try and listen to what we were saying. It was so unexpected to hear this conversation at check in.
So you basically know that I didn’t have the experience that I hoped for because we’ve spoken about it since. And I was with a therapist who was wonderful, and I trusted her implicitly. She was so experienced, so wonderful, so kind and really she knew so much about the whole subject.
And she was so generous with her knowledge. And she let me choose the mushrooms and she was explaining about it all and with the lemon juice. And it was just a wonderful, very interesting, fascinating morning. And then I had the first lot of mushrooms and I got a little bit giggly, but I couldn’t really giggle because it was only mean the therapist. So I had no one else to giggle with, and I When I close my eyes, I saw some interesting geometric patterns and pretty colours. But that was about it.
I didn’t have any hallucinations. I didn’t really go on a journey. I would say I was totally lucid and totally kind of like, Well, when is it going to happen? When am I going to feel at one with the universe and, you know, have this huge download about what the meaning of life is? So I was getting quite impatient after a couple of hours, and she she gave me some more. So I still perfectly within the kind of, you know, legal limit if you like. I don’t know, maybe everyone metabolises things differently.
But I then had a really bad experience, which was probably one of the worst I’ve ever felt in my life, actually, and I felt hugely panicked, hugely, hugely panicked because my heart was just beating out of my chest and I felt so unlike me. I so unlike me, and I desperately desperately wanted to get back to being me mhm. And I kept saying to her, I just want to be me again. Like I just I wish I’d never taken this. I want to be at home.
I was so happy and I just want this out of me. I want this out of me and because I had never taken drugs, she was like trying to calm me down and saying, Suzy, it’s a bad trip. It’s going to finish And in the end she was amazing because she literally just literally hugged me and I calmed down. She literally gave me sort of. She called a mama bear hug, and I started to calm down and come out of it, but because I had never had a trip I didn’t understand that they came to an end.
When you’re in it, I I thought, My gosh, have I ruined my entire life? So it was a horrible, horrible feeling. She was amazing afterwards, and she said, It’s like a cosmic joke because you came with such a light, positive, open energy and yet you had this experience and it feels like a cosmic joke and she said to me, Put it in your pocket like a like a mystery stone or something and just leave it there, which I thought was really, really good advice.
So I came home. Firstly, she helped me reframe it while I was there, with all sorts of all sorts of therapeutic sort of practises, while I was there, like drawing and taking out the picture of what I drawn and putting in another picture and then burning the bit that I drawn and all sorts of stuff. So it was really fascinating to go through, and I was I was a little shell shocked the next day, and then I came back to Manchester and started getting heart palpitations, and that was really frightening for me because I’d never had heart palpitations.
And it frightened me that I was up home safe back with my family, where I felt really comfortable and I was happy, you know, I was my normal self. And yet I was getting these palpitations and that actually lasted for 10 days. And and I was getting really scared because I thought am I actually going to have to go and see a cardiologist? And how the hell am I going to explain that I was taking magic mushrooms? You know, I was like, Oh, who am I going to go and see?
But I got a lot of help. The therapist and the Netherlands was amazing. She was emailing me all the time, But it was actually are reiki lady who I know who she actually sent me distant reiki. And it sorted it after 10 days. So that was my story. And I’d be very interested for your take on on what happened.
JP: Yeah, sure. So I guess you know, there’s a there’s a saying in this line of work, which is we can’t heal what We won’t feel right. And so, um, you know anxiety, paying confusion, all of these things that can happen during a more challenging experience.
You know, the word quote unquote bad trip is still used, but often people tend to frame it more as a challenging, challenging experience. And you know there is, I think, also kind of what I would describe as a general consensus amongst practitioners that the medicine gives us what we need at the point in time that we need. Which is not to say that you know that we we there can always be more done to improve the chances of a good experiences and and reduce the chances of a more challenging experience.
But ultimately, these are non deterministic experiences. And so if we’ve had, um, years of decades under our belt of operating our our minds in a certain way, and we’ve got, you know, a little bit of a patterned framework for how we see the world etcetera, then it’s likely that, you know these experiences can begin to unwind that and reconnect things that are uncomfortable, fundamentally and so that can that can send us into very strange places mentally, physically, emotionally places that we’ve never been before, right and That’s fundamentally, um, I guess it’s It’s central to what we’re looking for in relation to these experiences, right?
We’re trying to expand the range of the human experience. Um, now, we’d love to expand that towards peace. Love, joy. You know, divinity, all of these sorts of beautiful, transcendent states of consciousness that exists, um, in, uh, in the higher realms. But consciousness exists in polarity. And so it’s, you know, it’s equally possible for us to travel in the other direction where there is all of the lower level stuff, right, Which is the fear, the pain, the torment, the wrath, the lust.
Even, you know, all of these lower level, um, emotions. And so and so in these kind of states, which can be you can be very confusing.
SG: Yeah, and I think what I realised coming back was that I had been a little naive. I think in that whatever I had watched or listened to or read only really talked about the positive experiences of communing with God and all of this. And I really thought that that was what I was in line for. Particularly as I’m quite spiritual and You know, I’ve been doing all this sort of inner work for quite a while, so I guess it was a shock to me that that being with a therapist was not and doing all the inner work in itself was not enough to insulate me from a bad experience that the therapist was next to me, but she she couldn’t. But I was the one having the experience. So even though she was there, that was what happened. So when I came back, I thought I was really thinking, you know, is am I weird in some way? Because everyone’s had these amazing experiences And why didn’t I? And I felt like, genuinely gutted, very kind of let down and disappointed and like, Oh, goodness, I have built this up so massively to the people who I’ve talked to about it. And I was very choosy with who I spoke to about it, that was going to have this incredible experience, and I’d almost written the script about what I was going to say.
I mean, literally, I was going to come on and say, I’ve had this incredible spiritual experience, and I felt at one with nature. And this is going to be the future of mental health treatment blah blah. And there was this huge, gaping whole between what my expectations were and what the reality, what the universe actually gave me, which was something so different. So I had to come to terms with the fact that that my expectations were here and the reality was there and I had to accept that, which was hard.
And I did actually speak to a a psychotherapist who works on trials in the UK with psilocybin to try and understand, like what happened to me. And she said, Suzy, we’re only hearing the good stuff. We’re only hearing the good stuff. And I’ve spoken to you about this and use the term rainbow washing that you know, you watch the programmes on Netflix and you look and you only see these incredible experiences and I got swept along in that and I think what I’m keen to do now is just introduce a bit more nuance, so that so that as you say, people are aware that there is this polarity that maybe they’ll have this incredible experience.
Maybe they’ll have something that’s very different. Or maybe they won’t have much of an experience. And I really appreciate your integrity in wanting to convey that as well. Absolutely.
JP: And you know, I think there’s a couple of things that come to mind as you say that which is, you know, I’ve shared with you my own first experience in greater detail in the past. You know, I passed out 10 times and thought that was it, like I was certain that was it for me on the physical plane at least, um, and so and so you know, it’s the truth that these can be very challenging experiences and people say, Oh, well, you know, it gets easier over time.
That’s not necessarily the case, you know. My mother and I did a ceremony about six months ago, and she had this beautiful, transcendent journey where she was the white fire full of crystals, and I had one of the hardest ones of my life sitting, sitting right next to her. So it was, you know, she’d never she never witnessed something like that. If someone really having a hard time and I was having a very, very hard time despite having you know, many, many journeys under the belt. So, um, you know, it’s not necessarily the case that with more experience that you learn to drive the bus expertly all of the time or anything of that sort.
You know, the other thing that I think is important is, um, is in relation to the clinical trials themselves. Right? So these clinical trials are narrowly selecting for maximise, for maximising the benefit. You have to think about the intention that sits behind the trial. What sits behind the trial is the intention to ultimately legalise x amount of y drug for Z issue, right? And so what they’re looking actually, what they’re actually doing is they’re taking the people who fit the minimum description of depression, the people who fit the minimum description of anxiety, typically speaking there within a very narrow band of what depression actually is, or what anxiety actually is.
Uh, and then they’re publishing those results, and I mean, it looks like it looks like a miracle cure. Um, but fundamentally, there’s a lot more going on, and a lot more needs to be true in order for us to have shall we say, more predictable positive results with this part?
SG: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. What I have come to realise, I think bit belatedly is just how wildly unpredictable it is when you take something like a magic mushrooms that you’re not the one who dictates what experience you get, you know, you just don’t know.
And I think I hadn’t and I kind of knew that. But I hadn’t really fully appreciated that this was such a powerful thing that we don’t really understand. And that’s it does what it does. And you can’t really dictate what that is.
JP: Yeah, And you know what? I What I do always say, is that these these are neutral substances that amplify right? And so when when these powerful emotions, you know, assuming there’s nothing you know, physical, that’s happening like an allergic reaction or something like that. Assuming that’s not the case, these are energies that exist within us.
And so it can be very surprising and very challenging, um, to be confronted with these energies that don’t feel like a representation of us because that’s not how we feel on a day by day basis. It’s not how we think on a day by day basis, Um, and you know, these medicines do lead us into the places that are darkest, that our ego structure has been so determinant, determinedly keeping us away from. So there’s there’s for all of us. There are pockets in consciousness of the things that the mind doesn’t want to see.
And so the ego structure is very purposely keeping us from looking in these dark places because it’s, you know, the ego structure, fundamentally, is a defence mechanism. It’s trying to keep us away from discomfort. Um, and so as that process is unfolding and we’re feeling discomfort in ways and on levels that we’ve never felt before, it’s like, Whoa, I thought, you know, I feel like a pretty good person. Where is this coming from? And so, um, yeah, it can be very challenging. And, you know, the reality is, I also I also share this with clients who, you know, work with us over a duration.
Is that usually you know, there’s a sort of window of consciousness that we have within our first experience, right? we’re not going to go very much higher, and we’re not going to go very much lower, kind of simplifying for effect, but, uh, we’re kind of going to work within a given window. Now, over time, as we work with medicines, we can expand that and go much, much higher, and we can go much, much lower. Um, and so that means that, you know, the challenge that can arise can be a whole another level of of, you know, WTF???
Because we’re just going into much deeper, darker places than we ever have before. Uh huh.
SG: I will say, I will say that at this point, which is now, as you know, eight weeks on. I can’t remember exactly, but I got to the end of the year, which just last week, and I kind of thought to myself, You know, I haven’t really lost my temper in the in the past few weeks, and I stopped and thought about that. When was the last time I really lost it? And a couple of times I got a bit shouty when I ended up clearing the kitchen and the kids weren’t there at that moment. And I slipped into that kind of like, Well, I’ll just do everything myself type thing. But I wasn’t really feeling it, and I kind of, like, got aboard with myself after a couple of minutes of hearing myself do that. But I definitely noticed when I came to the end of the year where I kind of like reviewed the year in my head, which I know something that you encourage people to do to, kind of very regularly review where they’re up to.
And I realised that there were about two or three things that had been really, really, really pissing me off and they were pissing me off still, when I went to the Netherlands. I remember telling a therapist about them. But at this point, when I was thinking about it last week, I was realising that actually they didn’t really bother me and they hadn’t really bothered me for a few weeks and that was huge. It was a very subtle shift. It wasn’t like, kind of like one day I woke up and there was something different. It wasn’t like that at all. It was much more subtle.
It was me kind of looking back and thinking, I just don’t feel that triggered about this particular thing oor this particular person. I’m just like, whatever you know. I know it’s annoying, but I’m not that fussed about it, and that’s very different from where I was only in mid November that I went to Amsterdam and we’re now at the beginning of January. So at that point I went back to what she told me about the put it in your pocket, and I thought, it has in a way that I don’t understand, and I’m very open to that because it’s the same with I do reiki, I do eft tapping, and with those you don’t always get the result that you think. It’s not like, Oh, I’ve got a pain in my arm. Let me do reiki or EFT and it will just disappear. It doesn’t always work like that, but it goes somewhere, you know. And so I’m open, very open to the concept of the energy or whatever you want to call it going somewhere and doing something at its own pace. So I do attribute that to the mushrooms and also to your whole programme, which I thought was outstanding, absolutely outstanding.
Both before and after the ceremony, there was so much emphasis on letting go of what you call these lower energies, the anger, resentment, etcetera and practical ways to do that very, very practical, simple ways to do that which I started doing. So I genuinely feel having gone through your seven week programme, I feel like I’ve got those tools now for life.
JP: Yeah, and I think you know, that’s, uh, well, first and foremost, that’s, you know, I’m so glad to hear that because that’s the most important thing is that clients land in a good place.
You know, we’ve had we’ve had a few other clients that have had I will be honest, horrifying journeys like truly horrifying journeys and in through working with the coaches in the weeks that followed, have managed to come back to places where they are doing the best in their lives. And so to see them go through the death and the destruction and the oh my God, the whole world’s going to end sort of experiences and then to be like flying on cloud nine and ready to have babies and all of that sort of things you know, 34 weeks later, it’s nice to see that it works, right.
Because that’s fundamentally the whole motivation behind this business is to take a more holistic approach to this and not, you know, scoop people out the door, post medicine and be like All right, best of luck. And, you know, there’s a couple of things that came to mind as you said that. So I think, you know, clearly there’s been a neurological shift for you, right with the medicine really does work on a neurological level.
It’s neuro genetic, right? So it facilitates the growth of new neurons and facilitates an increase in neural plasticity. And often, our suddenness to anger is become a kind of hardwired trauma response, right? So there’s a specific neural pathway where if someone triggers you in a particular way, they’re going to get that deterministic emotional trauma based response, right? Raaaaaaahhhh! And then that element comes out now with these medicines, even if we’ve had, you know, forget the experience itself. If we could just park that and put it to one side for a second.
What’s happened in the brain is that the regions of the brain have become far more interconnected. So there’s actually other paths that are available now that weren’t available to us before. And so it’s like, uh and we can almost, you know. And as we become conscious of those patterns and more aware, then you know, you said, Oh, a couple of minutes. Maybe it would have been five minutes, 10 minutes before a reduction from 10 minutes of being angry to two minutes. Being angry is incredible. You know, my favourite meditation teacher says, um, if you could If you can reduce your anger by 5% every year, which is, you know, it’s nothing.
That’s an enormous, you know, enormous improvement over time. Uh, and he’s one of those people who very much believes as I do in incarnations and thousands of incarnations. So, you know, if you’re accruing those sorts of benefits over one lifetime, um, then then that’s an incredible improvement. Um, so that’s the first thing that comes to mind. The second thing that I think is important is you know, you spoke about your heart palpitations. Um, now, I believe that all of these sorts of physical manifestations have a grounding and emotions and in consciousness.
And so, you know, as you are harmonising probably. You know, as you said, working with your safety practitioner, um, continuing to do the mental and emotional work post retreat. I wouldn’t be surprised if you know, one night or it’s often by night that we have a more challenging dream. I don’t remember dreaming. I don’t remember dreaming. I just woke up. It was around two or three in the morning and my heart was going and I couldn’t get it down. I tried. I’ve never got out of bed and done yoga, but I did.
I did. I tried everything. I couldn’t get my heart to calm down. Yeah, so it’s often it’s by night that these things are trying to release themselves. Um, and so, you know, the the, um for when I continue to work with the tools you know, the emotional releasing tools in the mental work. Um, you know, I do all those tools every day, virtually without medicine, and there continues to be more and more and more stuff that can be released. So it’s just a never ending process of the elevation of consciousness.
And so, um, yeah, that’s, you know, that’s just it’s it can manifest in the physical body, and even without medicine for me, sometimes these things are coming to the surface. Often we find our sleep can be disrupted whether we wake up, whether palpitations, whether there’s twitches in the leg, there’s many manifestations that can take place, as there’s things that are coming up to be released so that that’s really such an important point that you said it’s a never ending process, this process of letting go of because things will hack us off every day.
You know, we’ll go out and someone will say something or whatever will get an email and it never stops. It’s that process of just letting that go constantly. And what was really interesting that you told me previously, is that you’ve known many people who have gone on ceremony after ceremony of this plant medicine in Costa Rica, Brazil, wherever, but are still really angry people. So I think I think it’s not. It’s not just a kind of, um, shortcut panacea to becoming a calm person is it that you just think where you go on a plant medicine retreat and you just become this Zen like person. That’s not the right approach, necessarily, is it?
JP: It isn’t. What we’re really looking for is guidance from someone who has elevated their consciousness, um, far beyond us. Preferably, um, the way that I often describe it is it’s all harmonisation and frequency. You know that we’re on a collective process together in terms of harmonising our consciousness. And so what we’re looking for is someone who is actually vibrating at a higher frequency, so to speak, in physical terms. If ever there are two frequencies, the lower frequencies harmonising to the higher frequency.
So we’re looking for a guide for a therapist for a practitioner who is operating from a higher vibration. If they’re not operating from a higher vibration, they’re not going to be able to guide us to a higher vibration. Fundamentally. Now the reason that’s important is that. You know, I really do advocate very strongly for people to consider this doing this work privately versus in large groups. For this reason, even if you’ve got someone who’s pretty good as a practitioner trying to guide a group of 5 10, God forbid 250 people, it happens.
Groups of 50 is more common than you think, unfortunately, um, but there’s not much ability for harmonisation to take place in that context. And so, um, what we’re looking for is people who have, who understand the mental and emotional aspects of this work and can ground these experiences. There are people out there who were full of negativity and judgement and have just amplified that through dozens, if not hundreds of plant medicine ceremonies. And now they’re louder and more judgmental and negative than they ever have been before.
Um, and so it’s not that these medicines are in of themselves positive. They’re neutral. It’s the intentionality that sits behind them. And so we can. You know, we can have pretty wild intentions, even if we don’t recognise them as wild ourselves because it’s just a reflection of what’s happening in our own consciousness. And so we really do need that outside source that mirror to say Hey, when you think this way, here are some of the, you know implications and considerations around the way that you’re currently seeing the world and it’s like, Oh, it’s this It’s not that and just having that calibration, that guidance, that that expertise, that that’s further along their journey and their evolution of consciousness is so important in relation to this work.
SG: It’s interesting what you said about being in a group of many people because, I mean, obviously I have not had that experience. I’ve only had the one experience, and it was just me and the therapist. But presumably there’s a danger of you absorbing other people’s negative energy. If they’re having a bad trip and think they’re about to die, that might be contagious. Would you say that?
JP: Yes, So there’s one aspect of this work that’s not talked about a lot, and because it’s not very well understood by, shall we say, the Western view of this medicine of this work is the energetic aspects, right?
So we are releasing energies that are a by-product of these traumas, right? So they are physically or they’re spiritually leaving our bodies. Um, and so if there’s someone next to you, uh, let’s just say you’ve come in completely clean and clear and you know you’ve done already. You know, decades of your own meditation retreats. This is your first medicine experience, and someone else is going through their childhood traumas and releasing them out. It’s very likely you will pick them up, and the reason for that is that you are. It’s like magnetism. You are clean and clear, and this energy is looking for a host, which is available. And so someone’s released their childhood trauma, and it’s gone straight into the person next to them. Now, unless that person is, you know, if that’s a room of 50 people, it’s highly unlikely that the facilitator is going to be managing at that level. There’s just too much happening in the room energetically, However, if that’s happening in a private setting, then the person is able to release that and send that energy elsewhere where it’s not going back into you, and it’s not going into into another person.
Now what’s interesting about this is that in the West we have a pretty good understanding of the Western psyche, right? The traumas that the way that we see the world now in the jungle and the Amazon, they’re not really prepared for the levels of intergenerational trauma that were coming down with, nor do they necessarily carry it themselves. Um, and so it’s, uh, you know, people say, Well, you know, doing it in a group of 20 or 50 people. That’s how the wisdom traditions have always done it. That’s the quote unquote right way to do it. It’s like, Yeah, but you live in New York City, Uh, and you’re bringing 10 generations of trauma down and into the Amazon jungle for a week, and you’re not going to be returned to a community in the context that understands the rite of passage that you’ve just been through. So you need a little bit more love and care and support around this experience to help you prepare for it and to reintegrate back into your desk job. Once you get back to life on Monday because you’re not going back to the jungle. You’re going back to New York City at the end of this experience.
So what we’re trying to do is to really combine, you know, the wisdom that comes from these ancient medicine traditions, with also the mental and emotional work before and after. That kind of fits the Western paradigm.
SG: And the thing is, because there’s such a buzz now about plant medicine, particularly about psilocybin, these retreats are popping up more and more. I mean, I’ve I had never got an email about a magic mushroom retreat until about three months ago. I’d never seen that in the UK literally. We’re doing a magic mushrooms retreat, you know, 20 people in a hotel. Um, and I sort of thought, I don’t want to do that in that in that space, I want to do it with therapist. You know, it scared me.
And in fact, when I got back from Amsterdam literally that weekend in The Times, the front of The Times we can supplement was how to save your marriage magic mushrooms. And there’s a whole double page spread about if you want to kind of like spice up your marriage and like you know, deepen your relationship with your partner. There it was, a retreat in the Netherlands where you go with your partner and take magic mushrooms. So it was again. It was all positive. It was all fabulous. And I thought, my goodness, the hype here is just going up and up and up. And I can well imagine there will be people listening to this now, thinking I’m loving the sound of this spiritual experience and growing new neurons, etcetera, I’ll get myself some magic mushrooms. So what would your advice be like? What is your take on the kind of recreational use of magic mushrooms?
JP: I believe in sovereignty of consciousness, which means that I believe that anyone should be able to do whatever it is that they want with their own minds and indeed their own bodies. That’s my fundamental belief. Now, if close friends came to me and they do quite often more and more so, um, I point them in very specific directions, I tell them number one, Do this with a professional number two, Spend the money or save the money. Um, and number three Do this privately. If you can afford to do so.
Um, and the reasons for that is that these are such powerful and sacred experiences, right? And so just doing this right, I think, is something that everyone knows to themselves if they’re going to explore it now. That being said, it’s not my job to police any of that. And so if people feel inclined to, um, you know, jump a few fences, gather a few mushrooms, uh, you know, post them on online forums to double check food, whether or not they’re poisonous, and then dry them out in the in the oven on the low temperature and do it themselves at home.
That’s not my place to say, but that’s certainly not the direction I have pointed any of my friends in, because the reality is we are as a collective. We are carrying some heavy stuff, and we never know what’s going to come up. And there’s just fundamentally too many stories of people, you know, um, entering really, really dark places. And, uh, and not having the right support around, you know, actually,
I’ve got a client of ours or someone who would have been a client of ours. Um he was coming on a retreat. The date was all agreed and everything. And before that, he was living in L. A. He just thought he had an opportunity to go take some mushrooms with a friend of his, and he just thought, Well, this is much lighter than what I’m going to go be doing, so it’ll be fine. And he had just the most horrific experience, you know, He thought he was gonna kill himself. He thought he was going to kill his friend. Um, and, uh and you know, that’s not that’s not uncommon, Uh, in terms of the energies that can be amplified and the things that can come to the surface. And so, um, you know, even healers that that I really love and respect and work with, you know, they’ve had experiences where they wish that there was someone else there, you know, some of the best healers in the world and and they have had experiences where they thought, Oh, my God. You know, I’m gonna hurt myself. I’m going to hurt someone else. So just be conscious of that and just make sure that you’re surrounded by people who are going to have only your best interests in mind if you decide to explore this without professional.
SG: Yeah, Jonathan, I want to thank you for your honesty and integrity as well as your wisdom, because I think I hope that we have that we have shared something that is nuanced and informative to people. And I hope that gives a balanced view of this incredibly exciting area that we know is just going to explode. I’m just feel so privileged to kind of come across you. You’re in your way away in Thailand. I’m in Manchester in the UK but yet we’ve had these really profound conversations over the past few weeks, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.
JP: You bet. I’m just more than anything. I’m just pleased that you’re doing better than ever. That’s the most important thing. And look, that’s very much fundamental to the human condition. Is self improvement, right? And so I think you’re right to say that this area is going to explode, and again, it’s just it’s just all about the mental and emotional work that’s fundamentally what will get us where we want to be as a collective.
SG: Absolutely. Absolutely.