Updated: Feb 1, 2022
Psychedelic comes from psyche (life; spirit; soul; self, akin to psychein which means to breathe) and delic (to make manifest, to reveal and make visible). Psychedelics manifest soul, they make spirit visible, they reveal life itself.
Integration (the root word of which is entire), is defined as the restoration to wholeness; the process of renewal; the making up of a whole by combining the separate parts or elements. We can also look to entire which means to make whole, to unite, including all essential parts; with no part excepted; not fatigued or worn; fresh; one and undivided.
A psychedelic experience can be a profound and meaningful event. In fact, between two thirds to 86% of those who have psychedelic experiences in a supportive therapeutic setting consider them to be either one of the five most meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives, or the single most meaningful experience. It should be noted that integration is considered an essential part of all current clinical trials and legal psychedelic therapy models.
"Enlightenment is only the beginning, is only a step of the journey. You can't cling to that as a new identity or you're in immediate trouble. You have to get back down into the messy business of life, to engage with life for years afterward. Only then can you integrate what you have learned. Only then can you learn perfect trust.”
Jack Kornfield - 'After the Ecstasy, the Laundry'
As a psychedelic integration therapist I work with both individuals and groups to support the process of harvesting the wisdom, insights and challenges of a psychedelic experience. This could be thought of as the journey back home, but a journey from a renewed perspective. The journey home comes after what has often been a profound and potentially life-changing encounter with deep psyche and the transpersonal realms. We are not the same as when we set off, it can take time to reassemble ourselves back together, and often the reassembling will include perhaps unfamiliar and reclaimed parts of ourselves and may leave and let go of parts that are no longer serving us.
Another way of thinking about psychedelic integration is this: If during a psychedelic experience, some seeds were planted, integration is the process of nurturing those seeds, every step of the way from seed through to harvest.
Psychedelic integration takes place at all levels of our being - cognitive, emotional, somatic, sensory, imaginal and archetypal and is a non-linear process. It can be helpful to consider these different aspects that can be part of the process:
Remembering - As soon as possible in the days after the experience creating a safe and dedicated space to journal the content and details of your journey. This doesn't need to take the form of a coherent narrative - let your experience flow into words however they arrive. It can sometimes help to listen to any music from your session. Include memories, emotions, imagery and body-sensations. It's just important that you do this at a time when you feel grounded enough to be with what emerges.
Processing - How do you feel about your experience? What felt good to you? And what was difficult? How did the experience impact you emotionally, both during and after? What are you grieving? What are you celebrating? What did you discover about yourself? What might be most difficult to accept? If the medicine advised you to do something, is that a wise and healthy choice for you? What dreams are you having in the days after?
Embodiment - What wants to move in your body? How does it want to move? What wants voice or expression? Find ways to allow the body's inherent wisdom to process and integrate the experience. This will be different for everyone but taking time to mindfully listen and notice what the body needs can include, shaking - practices like TRE can be really supportive, dance, stretching, yin yoga, noticing what food you would like to eat - really listening to the body here. If you are aware of any new body sensations or somatic process just gently taking your attention towards those to explore through a felt sense. What does your body want to tell you?
Relinquishment - What wants to be let go of? We are often inspired and/or required to change what needs to change about ourselves and our lives, and to undo or dismantle what’s unhealthy and isn’t serving us anymore. Some of the undoing is sudden and immediate, and some of it is gradual and strategic. Take your time with this stage and don’t move too quickly. There is a strong need for our external life/work/world to match up with our inner needs and soul longings and callings. Integrity becomes a requirement. Be cautious about making any dramatic life-changes before really taking the time to sit with the implications.
Restoration - As the experience starts to become integrated we might feel like we’re getting a fresh start at life, a new beginning. Becoming free to explore our personal potential and callings, and to imagine new possibilities. Themes include feeling more inspiration, pleasure, love, and connection. Creativity is especially important during this stage as can be the Art of ritual.
Service - How do the profound insights, imagery, and sensations from the journey translate into your day-today life and your work in the world? What outside of yourself is different now? How do the harvests of your experience become of service to those around you, your community and the wider world?
The integration process can be ongoing for many weeks, months or years. While much of the work will happen through personal enquiry and embodiment practices, the support of community and/or an integration therapist can be invaluable. An integration therapist will accompany you on your journey and support you in making sense and meaning from these experiences. Community Integration circles are facilitated by Integration therapists and offer a held group experience to share your experience and be offered reflections and mutual support.
The journey after the journey is crucial. We return home changed. Home may have become an unfamiliar world to be renegotiated and relationships may need to be redefined. The work of integration supports us in bringing the harvest home to our relationships - relationships to ourselves, others and the world and towards wholeness.