Magic Mushrooms Series: A Change of Heart

This is the story of Psilocybin Cubensis–also known as, Magic Mushrooms: what they are, where they came from and how I made it to the mountains in Oaxaca, Mexico to take part in this communion with the sacred. Through my own transformation process, I am seeing the potential to heal deep trauma in our local and global communities around the world.

I first heard about taking fresh mushrooms in the mountains of Oaxaca from Hamilton Morris on “Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia” a couple of years ago. Hamilton loves to study psychoactive drugs, their chemistry and impact on society. Recently the book, “How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence,” by Michael Pollen became a series on Netflix. It seemed this story has making its way into the mainstream, one way or another, so I had to go see for myself what was happening in Oaxaca.

I then set out to find a community offering this type of sacred mushroom ceremony. All roads led me to experience the spirit of Teonanancatl (sacred mushroom) with the amazing Maliollin curanderos and curanderas that have carried the tradition of the Zapateco in Mexico for generations. With the family’s guidance from the spirit and two advisors, Jessica and Andrew from One Spirit Infinite Journeys, off I went. The intention is to forgive past relationships, heal personal and ancestral trauma and welcome a new vibration of joy and love into my life.

In order for this to work so much preparation goes into this. Starting by nourishing your body with high energy food and withdrawing from the senses or any outside influences. No cell phones, tv, electricity or devices. Food is cooked on wood burning stoves. Rooms are lit by candle light and heated with a fireplace; all energy on the premises comes from solar panels. In the beginning of this series I shared about various experiences with the rapé ceremony to detox the body and clear the energetic field; Temezcal(Sweat Lodge) for further physical detox, prayer, fire and the symbolic rebirth that occurs within the space; holotropic breathwork to regulate the state of mind and even transcend the narrow boundaries of the body ego; and the intimate integration work done with the group. The goal or hope for an outcome is to heal myself, ancestry, relate authentically with family and community, and to share my story in an effort to help heal one another.

What I have come to understand in preparing for this ceremony is that for mushrooms to heal with intention, so set and setting means everything. When we intend to heal vs. taking mushrooms for recreation, the outcome is vastly different. Which brings me to why it took me so long to make the decision to take the sacrament in the first place. Over the years I had many “bad” trips and had built up a fear created from countless episodes that lets just say didn’t support healing. Essentially my previous “drug” experiences had no intention what-so-ever. I self medicated and banked on an outcome of “feeling better” by trying to put a bandaid on my feelings. This just created more of a scab from the suffering, the mindset of being programmed in the western world, and a jumping off point into the world of addiction.

Being cleansed for ceremony with Copal

In the first article from this series, Rapé: Release and Freedom , I touched on how much context means when we talked about Tobacco as a sacred sacrament vs the addictive qualities we usually associate the plant with. Hamilton interviews Florida farmers and asks their opinion on taking mushrooms. The interviewee said he views the kids taking mushrooms as “drug addicts” and thinks they should get off the couch and get a job. He gives his opinion that mushrooms are a gateway drug just like weed. Usually what we don’t understand is really coming from a place of fear. What I have come to realize is that fear is the opposite of love and often what we fear the most is what we need to overcome so that we can fully experience love. The answers often lie in the shadow. Before now, I was afraid of the shadow so since I had associated mushrooms with going into a dark place, I had no idea what this plant medicine had in store for me. I entered into this space, this time, from a place of unconditional love and forgiveness, for my ancestors, and for me. I set out with the intention to heal my heart, or at least begin to. I wasn’t expecting my personal history with trauma and PTSD to be revealed in a way that I had never understood before. Nor did I think the experience would lead to me looking at life’s existential questions like, why am I here or is my purpose really what I think it is?

A lot more than I bargained for came with me from the mountains of San José del Pacifico. After overcoming the depths of addiction to cope with trauma so many years ago, I thought my life seemed manageable. I had long since made peace with the fact that I would have live my life with the resulting feelings, flashbacks, and old stories. I had become indifferent and accustomed to living with a low grade depression and PTSD. After so many years psychotherapy, I had given up talk therapy and trying to understand what had happened to me. I tried my best to put it behind me with temporary forms of reprieve like yoga, my work, hobbies, love interests, friends, etc, but all those aids where outside me and never seemed to heal what plagued me at my core. What that looks like from the outside: there’s a heaviness; a general lack of interest in society; a feeling of being left behind, lost, left out, far from home; and what seems like a life sentence in sadness.

My own day of reckoning came nearly thirty years ago when I had just gotten out of bathtub of ice following one of many overdoses. Wobbling over to the bathroom mirror, I looked in my eyes and saw a black sea of nothingness staring back at me. My time was up. I either commit to life or be more deliberate about the ending of it. Over time, my grasping at life developed into a sense of desperation, ultimately leading me to the plant medicine path beginning with Ayahuasca, Kambo and now magic mushrooms.

Day One

The night before my first journey, I woke up in the middle of the night and I saw the stars from a big window in my room on the mountain. Looking up, I felt the closest to home I have felt in a long time. I decided to sit by the fire that was still kindling in my room and set my intention for the next day. I fed the fire most of the night searching for the warmth. The next morning we met down the mountain at the temazcal dome where an outdoor fire was burning bright. Drawn to the fire, I sat as close to it as I could get without burning myself. I brought the piece of paper I had written my intentions on, said a prayer silently and put it in the fire. A fresh bushel of mushrooms were placed in front of me on a bed of leaves. We were told to eat them slowly and to think of our intention once more. The truth is, no amount of mental preparation or intention could have prepared me for the profound shifts I was about to experience in this state of consciousness.

As soon as we all got the mushrooms down everyone scattered to different parts of the hillside. We were in what I can only describe as a mystical fairy land. Rolling hills as far as the eye can see with clouds and mist hovering on the tips of bellowing trees, sprinkled with fiery sunlight. I stayed by the fire, laid down, covered myself with blankets and closed my eyes. My mom was immediately with me. I wasn’t surprised since she had come to me on my Ayahuasca journey prior where she left me with the feeling I had work to do that went beyond myself. This time she told me that it was my job to break the chain and heal our ancestors. I didn’t know exactly what that meant at the time, but as I continue down this path I know she meant that by healing myself I create a rippling effect that not only heals my ancestors but everyone in my life and beyond.

My mom told me she had to show me some of my memories, stories again. This time from her perspective and some parts that I had blocked out over time. Specifically my earliest memory, age three, that proved to be the source of my PTSD. When I first wrote this story, I had the details ready to go and now I don’t think what matters here, isn’t the story itself, but how I feel.

There were several memories showing me she did the best she could for who she was. My father didn’t know what he was doing either and pretty much everyone they left me with either sexually abused me or neglected me. I was shuttled back and forth like an afterthought or a burden, rather than a child that needed love and protection. When I finally got the courage to tell my parents what happened to me, they weren’t capable of knowing how to handle it so it got swept under the rug and so did I.

I learned fast that my voice didn’t matter so after that I kept quiet and to myself. I had to grow up in a way no child should ever have to. I walked around with my head down and became the target of bullying throughout school. Living most of my life feeling unwanted, unloved and alone, my stories kept me in a place of being a victim and trapped.

Until this little trip into the clouds of my mind shook something loose. I heard Michale Pollen describe it as, “You’re essentially being dope slapped out of your stories.” I would add that I finally know my feelings are real, my voice matters, I do have power and I am no longer a victim. The psychedelic experience changes your perception of the stories themselves. Leveling the playing field of trauma completes day one with what’s considered a hero dose of magic mushrooms. The second day I would be taking two to three times the first.

Day Two

What would happen next is so significant and profound I am having trouble putting this day into words: I’ll start with the basics. The first day we had our mushrooms delivered with our guides Andrew and Jessica. Today is the main event. We were shuttled into a sacred valley that would prove to be the most magical of all. I was in a daze from the weeks events and had no clue as to what I was in for.

As we got to the part of the forest where we would take the sacrament, I took some deep breaths and said my prayers. I knew I was here to clear away the past so I can be of service. We sat in a circle with the elders. We were asked to put our intentions aside and to instead think of our ancestors. To remember how we got here: our parents, our grandparents…To in a way be thankful, even if life had challenged us. And as we eat our medicine, to take it slowly, with these intentions.

Sitting with the amazing Maliollin curanderos and curanderas meant we were taking the sacrament to be with our ancestors and release anything holding us back from our highest good. As we were given our dosage of the medicine, we were asked to take two seeds that represented our prayers. The first seed would go in the fire and the second would be buried in a hole.

For the first seed I prayed to release all of my ancestors that had suffered. Especially the male ancestors that had been abused and in turn became abusers themselves. I had always prayed for the women in my family, for what they had to endure, but the men were hurt too…otherwise how could they hurt. And the second seed, I asked for love to fill the hole that had been created from being hurt. As I walked back from delivering my seeds and prayers, I was stopped and asked to please take more mushrooms. It was like they heard my prayers and knew I needed a heavy dosage to complete the work.

I said, “Are you sure, I had quite a lot already?”

“Yes, I see you,” they said.

I said, “Ok then,” as my heart sank into my chest.

We all scattered into the forest and took a seat before the medicine took effect. Not too far, they said, as they wanted to be able to get to us. I stayed near the fire again. Listening the crackling wood, my journey began with sound. A voice I have never heard began to bellow out of my chest, my throat, my face, my mouth. I was singing, screaming, crying, laughing…It was like years of being quiet about things that mattered came out in animal like muttering. Then my body began flailing as I was scratching at the ground. It felt like something was trying to get out of me.

Jessica came over with the family. I couldn’t see them, but I could hear her asking me what I needed and I couldn’t say anything. I got on my knees and started hurling, but nothing was coming out. Just spit and phlegm. I cried and cried. I just remember hearing the sound of a cassette tape unwinding at a high pitched sound. Only one word playing on repeat: “Programming”, became like a mantra spewing from the tissues of my body. The same tape had played in my first Ayahuasca experience. All of the medicine I had taken was showing me the same story: that parts of me were trying to hold on to violence– that I couldn’t let go because I couldn’t forgive myself. I looked up and the entire family’s hands were on my stomach. They kept saying “Calma”, meaning calm down…I heard them say she’s not surrendering.

I thought she meant Karma. What was happening to me felt like many lifetimes of pain, shame, terror, fear, grief… all being forced, exercised, from my body at the same time. There were no guides on this journey. My mom wasn’t there. I had this overwhelming sense that I didn’t need her anymore. That it was up to me me this time. She gave me what I needed and our soul contract was complete. At that moment, my body just stopped moving. I stopped making sounds. People backed up. I put my hands out in front of me and pulled myself up. As I wavered, Jessica came towards me with a cup of tea and said you did the work. There’s nothing more to release or let go of. Now stand and drink this. It’s time to be with us.

The way EVERYONE was looking at me made ME feel as if I was GOD. They said give her room. It was the strangest feeling. At first someone asked me how I would write about this. I mean how do you say you’re GOD: HA HA, I had to think on it. Then, I finally knew what I had been studying all these years really meant. We all have God inside us. We are our own gurus. We are Brahman. In Hinduism, Brahman, a Vedic Sanskrit word, is the ultimate reality of the universe–the “creative principle which lies realized in the whole world.” And that’s what I felt as I was after letting go of all that’s not me. I could finally forgive myself and that was the key to remembering who I really am– my true self without the hurt.

I drank the tea and walked out into the field to find the rest of our group. We peeled off the many of the layers of ceremonial protective clothing and basked in the warmth of sun, the grass, and the light. We ran and played like children with the animals, nature and each other. We laughed so hard, we cried.

My Medicine Family

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.”


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