The Mindfulness of Psychedelic Integration

Catherine Auman, LMFT
Published on: November 25, 2018
Last updated: February 2, 2021

The pulsating aliveness of a tree … the sensuous softness of a kiss … the mind being blessedly silent and only consciousness exists: These are experiences of mindfulness, whether brought to our attention by psychedelics or meditative awareness.

“When the mind disappears and thoughts disappear you become mindful. You do things – you move, you work, you eat, you sleep, but you are always mindful. The mind is not there, but mindfulness is there. What is mindfulness? It is awareness. It is perfect awareness [1].”  Osho

One of the great joys of both mindfulness and psychedelics is in their facilitation of similar mechanisms. They both dissolve ego boundaries, both direct one’s awareness inward toward the self rather than the environment, and they both collapse time into only the present moment. During both experiences, a person is intensely aware of their feelings and a sense of timelessness, characteristics reminiscent of mystical states, which may be encountered as blissful.

As is well known, however, what goes up must come down. After a psychedelic journey, the loss of the insights from ecstatic levels of awareness may be devastating for some people. As one comes back to everyday consciousness, the return of the mind and its incessant chatter interferes with fully engaging with the present moment. The loss of this higher state of consciousness can bring despair or frustration, and ultimately it can lead some individuals to seek more understanding from these experiences.

When integrating psychedelic experiences, it may be overwhelming for the person re-entering consensual, normal reality. The mind is desperately trying to make sense of what it has experienced, and there may be fear. There is a need to get back to the body, to the everyday world, and for grounding in them.

And here is where mindfulness practices can be helpful for psychedelic journeying. Before, during, and after a psychedelic session, attention can be brought to the body, its sensations, the breath, the sounds, the surroundings, and even one’s thoughts. The tasks of the integration period can be about encouraging a disciplined practice of returning, returning, and returning again to the ecstatic awareness of this, the present moment.

Mindful awareness can also help ease the difficult passages that may come up during a journey, by treating them with a curious mind, an awareness that this state is temporary, and that we are able to witness even this passing of each moment without the interference of the critical mind.

Later we can remember these times of heightened awareness as guideposts – for how we would like to be present more often, for longer periods of time. Our desire is to prevent being ruled by the tyranny of the mind, to sit apart, free, in touch with what is instead of being held captive by demands of the media, the advertising industry, our egos, and our plans. To be in touch with our desire to communicate both internally and with others with compassion.

Exciting new research shows one even further the connection between mindfulness and psychedelics. That is, psychedelics may not only facilitate mindfulness, but that the reverse is also true — the use of psychedelics may enhance post-journey mindfulness in the participant. In a Canadian study conducted at a meditation retreat for long-time meditators, participants were given psilocybin several times after all-day meditative practice. The study found that “psilocybin induced profound mystical experiences and increased both self-reported meditation depth and post-retreat levels of mindfulness” [2].

Albert Hoffman, discover of LSD, recognized similar potentials of LSD. He said,

“I see the true importance of LSD in the possibility of providing material aid to meditation aimed at the mystical experience of a deeper, comprehensive reality. Such a use accords entirely with the essence and working character of LSD as a sacred drug [3].”

Integration of psychedelic experience can be an ongoing process long after the journey has ended. One can continue and deepen the practice of everyday mindfulness, seek out psychotherapy to heal issues uncovered by psychedelics, and decide to begin a disciplined mindfulness practice. In the end, all mindful awareness practices and psychedelic integration ultimately enhance a state of reverence, of the sacredness of all life.

References

  1. Osho. And the Flowers Showered. Osho Media International, 2012.
  2. Scheidegger, Milan. “Psilocybin enhances mindfulness-related capabilities in a meditation retreat setting: a double-blind placebo-controlled fMRI study.” Psychedelic Science Conference, Oakland, CA 2017.
  3. Hoffman, Albert. LSD: My Problem Child. Oxford University Press, 2013.
  4. Auman, Catherine. Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth. Green Tara Press, 2014.
  5. Fadiman, James. The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic and Sacred Journeys. Park Street Press, 2011.
Published by:
Catherine Auman, LMFT
I am a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles, CA, and I look forward to working with you. Learn more about my integration and mental health services on my profile page in the Psychedelic Support Network. Contact today for an appointment.

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