Working with plant medicine can be a big decision for some. So, when you feel called and you feel it is your time, we want to make sure you have all of the information you need to feel supported on your path. Javier Regueiro is a Spanish plant medicine person, born in Switzerland, a Massage Therapist Rebirther and an Avatar Master. He breaks down for us some of the most important practices and things to remember when working with sacred plant medicines.
The Shipibo, an ethnic group in the Peruvian Amazon jungle whose culture is intimately connected with the use of Ayahuasca, have a very pragmatic approach to the use of Ayahuasca: they do as they have been doing for thousands of years -- because it works.
As this brew has become a global medicine and has left its place of origin, countless new ways of working with it have appeared. That’s when the question of safety becomes important: we are now able to experience this medicine outside of its traditional context and in ways that can hardly be said to have been tested and refined.
For me, the important thing is to understand that we co-create safety. Safety in a healing circle depends on everyone who sits in that circle and not only on the ceremony leader or host. We co-create safety by following the preparatory guidelines as well as by asking important questions in regards to set and setting. I believe that there are no bad medicine people because we simply get what we sign up for, and that we can sign up for an experience that is healing and safe by taking responsibility for our own choices in regards to our health and well-being. Getting informed and listening to other people’s firsthand experiences is most beneficial and helpful in making a sound choice.
As the process with plant medicines begins long before and continues long after the effects of the medicine have subsided, it is important to make sure we engage in it with as much support as possible. We are our first support system, so taking enough time before and after each ceremony or retreat to prepare and then integrate makes all the difference in the world. Signing up for an experience where the ceremony leader is available to us to answer our questions and address any possible confusion is also highly recommended. For these reasons, I feel it is better for most people to sign up for medicine circles that do not exceed 20 participants and that we are aware that this is not a miracle process, but one that requires not only our full respect but also our presence and engagement with it.
For most Westerners and modern people, I believe that Ayahuasca and San Pedro are most beneficial in supporting us in the exploration of our shadow. Since the unconscious contents of our psyche are a mystery to us, there is no way we can foresee what may or may not happen during a ceremony or plant medicine retreat. This is a healing and spiritual process, therefore any expectations on our part have little space in it: these medicines address our needs rather than our wishes, no matter how noble those wishes may be.
People who are not willing to explore whatever they may have been repressing or avoiding as well as those who are attached to being comfortable and uniquely drawn to the light aspects of existence are discouraged from engaging in this process. Traditionally these medicines were used in an initiatory context and not available to just anyone but only the ones deemed ready for it. Some people are so disconnected from themselves that some preparatory work with psychotherapy, breathwork or other modalities is highly recommended before actually engaging with plant medicines.
As far as I am concerned, the integration part of this process is the most important and often challenging part of this process. Because of this, more and more therapists are offering integration therapy to support others and it’s a good thing to ask for that kind of support if we feel the need for it.
Plant medicine is a healing process, and healing requires change. We may wish for change and at the same time change can be challenging. Sometimes the plant medicine experience is only a catalyst for that change and it is up to us to implement it. Other times a healing experience points to the need for more healing. In all cases it is important to remember that this is only a step along our journey and not the end solution to our so-called problems, so shifting our focus to our present predicament is often more helpful than obsessing with our intended goal and destination.
Plant medicine can seem miraculously powerful in supporting our growth and healing, and yet there are no miracle pills or shortcuts along the way. We are occasionally blessed with extraordinary peak experiences, and yet these are the most challenging to integrate into our daily lives as opposed to just bragging about them. Patience, humility and the willingness to be honest with ourselves are always the best attitudes in any healing and spiritual path.
Learning to say “no”
Spiritual and healing communities are not exempt from occasional abusive behaviors of many kinds. Supposedly we join these communities because we are wounded, and sometimes, instead of healing a wound, we end up re-enacting them with whomever is around, including our trusted guides and companions. This is also part of our healing journey and not that uncommon. It's so important not to give our power away to anyone, and instead, stay in our truth in order to avoid abusive and traumatic experiences. The world of healing and plant medicine is far from the idealized world we naively expect, but always a powerful mirror of ourselves: when we take responsibility for the experiences we invite into our lives, then real growth and healing unfold beautifully.