Psychedelic Preparation, and How Cannabis Can Help

Jun 4, 2024 | Uncategorized

Preparing for a Journey

Psychedelic Journeys are becoming the new, “hip” way to improve mental health and well-being. There are now a number of celebrities who are publicly supporting psychedelic use for their positive effects.

Many people believe that a psychedelic revolution is already underway. 

The increased access of psychedelics will bring many changes to our culture. While these changes will likely be a net social benefit, there are some concerns and unanswered questions. 

While we have faith that the transition into a psychedelic friendly world will go smoothly, only time will tell how these questions shakeout. Using psychedelic medicine, like any medicine, comes with risk. 

We worry that there are not enough people talking about what are perhaps the most important risk-reducing factors:

  1. Preparation for a psychedelic journey.
  2. Integration of a psychedelic journey. (This will be the focus of our next blog piece).
  3. How mild psychedelic journeys (such as cannabis) can help prepare for more intense psychedelic experiences.

Topics one and three are the focus of our latest blog piece today. 

Cannabis is perhaps the “gentlest” psychedelic plant medicine. Its risk profile is a lot more desirable than other psychedelics, narcotics, or alcohol. It’s also the psychedelic that provides the most agency. It can be just as powerful as the classic psychedelics. However, the experience is much easier to control and much easier to halt if needed. 

(Curious about the difference between recreational cannabis and psychedelic cannabis? Check out a recent blog piece on the topic here!). 

Psychedelic cannabis is also a medicine that can be used (somewhat) more often without harmful effects. Both Ketamine and MDMA should only be used every so often, for example. 

Psilocybin and LSD both have incredible healing potential, but journeys with these medicines usually require much longer integration periods. 

Let’s now turn to something we highly recommend after signing up for a psychedelic journey: Preparation!

Preparing for a Psychedelic Journey

Finding a psychedelic journey opportunity that feels right can be extremely exciting. Believe me, I’ve been there! 

But jumping right in without preparing for the journey adequately increases the risk of either not having the specific kind of journey you want (healing, creativity boosting, spiritual growth ect.), or becoming overwhelmed or destabilized by what comes up.

Most psychedelic journeys are no joke. Although you may feel incredible joy, connectedness, and love, you might also come face-to-face with extremely traumatic and unprocessed memories. 

You might feel a deep sense of confidence and self-worth, but you also might see some of your deepest insecurities and how they affect your behavior in daily life. 

So what can you do to prepare for what is somewhat unknown?

We’ll dive into this now, but keep in mind that the overall goal of all of these preparation concepts is simple. 

To minimize risk, and to maximize outcomes

(We also highly encourage you to be aware of your federal, state, and local laws around the use and possession of psychedelics. While we disagree vehemently with the prohibition of psychedelics, we also recognize the fact that psychedelics are illegal in many parts of the world. Using psychedelics in these places comes with serious legal risks, along with the mental health risks.)

(At Holistic TherapeutiX, we are proud to say our psychedelic cannabis journeys are completely legal.)

Why Do You Want to Journey?

There are a number of ways to approach psychedelic preparation. To start, it’s wise to ask yourself a simple question. Why are you doing this?

  • Is it for healing?
  • Is it for problem solving or enhanced creativity?
  • Is it for enhanced introspection and deeper self-awareness?
  • Is it for deep spiritual exploration or growth? 
  • Is it for pure enjoyment, and the seeking of ecstasy and euphoria?

There is no right or wrong reason. All of these are valid. But if you aren’t sure why you’re seeking a psychedelic journey, clarity can be really helpful. There may be multiple reasons, and that’s okay too!

Long-Term, Intermediate-Term, and Short-Term Prep

  • Long-Term Prep

If you have an upcoming journey that is still months out, then there is something extremely useful you can do before getting more specific. Get to know yourself! 

You can do this by observing yourself, your relationships, your spirituality, and your optimism about life (or lack-there-of). 

What do you like? What do you dislike? What are you proud of? What do you want to change about yourself? Where are you stuck? What are your attachment styles like? Are you secure or do you often self-sabotage? 

Be sure to do this with compassion and curiosity. The goal isn’t to beat yourself up. It’s to learn about yourself, why you are the way you are, and about where you want to make improvements in yourself. This will set the stage for the next phase in preparation: The intermediate term.

  • Intermediate-Term Prep

In the intermediate term, we recommend learning about and practicing mindfulness techniques as they can bring a host of benefits. This can include mindful meditation, regulating breathing exercises, and embodiment exercises such as yoga, cardio, or strength training. 

These techniques will also make the process of getting to know yourself much easier through enhanced self-awareness. 

Perhaps more importantly, these tools can help you navigate the most challenging moments of a psychedelic journey. Exploring the most painful parts of yourself can be difficult, but mindfulness tools can make this exploration safer. 

These tools will teach you how to ground, and how to be with painful parts with compassion and curiosity. This helps ensure these moments do not become overwhelming. Lastly, these tools are extremely useful for psychedelic integration. We will discuss that in more detail in the next piece. 

  • Short-Term Prep

Once your psychedelic journey is just around the corner, you can focus on a specific but powerful preparation technique. 

Unearthing and setting your intentions! After spending time getting to know yourself and practicing mindfulness techniques, it will be much easier to choose your intentions for the journey.

Trust your gut and go with whichever intention feels most “alive”. Setting an intention (or two) before a journey is extremely powerful. Intentions can help guide your journey to where you want it to go. It’s also important to point out that an intention is something that should be loosely held. It is not an expectation.

Although rare, sometimes a psychedelic journey takes you somewhere you were not expecting. In this case, trust your gut and decide if you think you can safely go with this unexpected route or if you should go back towards your intention. Oftentimes, psychedelic journeys show us something that we could not have intended for beforehand, and it may be something that required attention more urgently than our original intention. 

Let’s now turn to another way to frame psychedelic preparation. 

Physical Prep

One of the biggest risk-reducing things you can do is to make sure you are physically ready for a journey. This may include speaking with your doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist (preferably one with training in psychedelic therapy) about what to expect. 

If you are on any medications, we also recommend speaking with your prescriber, and deciding with them if you need to taper off for the journey. There is some research which suggests that cannabis and MDMA (especially) don’t mix so well with antidepressants. 

Picking up a mobility exercise such as yoga can also help you feel a lot more comfortable during a journey. It is helpful to be still during journeys. Tight or aching shoulders, hips, or backs can make stillness much harder. 

Physical preparation can also include nutrition and diet. If you have the means, we recommend speaking with a dietitian about an anti-inflammatory diet in the days leading up to the journey. 

This can help you have a deeper, more profound experience. Be sure to focus on a healthy sleep schedule and hydration as well. Journeys can be physically demanding, and your body will appreciate being prepared when the time comes.

Psychological Prep

Although trying to guess just what exactly will come up in your journey is foolhardy, there are certain ideals you can keep in mind to be prepared. 

Feeling or facing some fear at certain points is common in psychedelic journeys. Fear can lead to resistance, but as Carl Jung (Swiss Psychiatrist, “Father” of Analytic Psychology) once said, “what you resists persists”.  If fear is a part of your journey, be prepared to do your best not to resist the fear, or where it’s coming from. This is once again a “trust your gut” scenario but if you feel like you can face the fear or discomfort safely, then do so. 

Resistance, or trying to control the experience is what typically leads to more challenging or distressing trips. You must prepare to “let go” and let the experience unfold however it wants. Mindful meditation can help you practice letting go. 

Another aspect of this is getting to know your fears before the journey in the first place. Meditation and self-awareness can help with this. It’s helpful to befriend these fears too once you meet them. This way, it will be easier to drop your resistance should these fears come up in the journey.

You should also spend time getting to know your triggers before a journey. Recognize when you have a reaction that seems out of proportion to what caused it. Did a co-worker make an innocuous comment that set you off? That was likely a trigger!

A great technique to get ready for dealing with triggers during a journey is to practice being in the presence of your triggers and sitting with the discomfort. A simple way to do this can be done the next time you get triggered. 

The next time you’re triggered, do your best not to try to change how you feel through exercise, a cigarette, or a joint. Begin a mindful meditation and give the discomfort space. Allow it to be. Feel the discomfort it is causing. If possible, try to trace the origin of this trigger. 

It might be childhood. It might be high school. If you can identify the source of the trigger, and you are accustomed to sitting in the discomfort of it, it will be much easier to heal during a psychedelic journey.

Do this with compassion, self-love, and a whole lot of patience.  

Spiritual Prep

Are you a spiritual or religious person? Do you ever contemplate your relationship to a higher power?

It’s been called many names by many psychonauts. The Divine, the Cosmic Consciousness, God, Goddess, Jehova, Buddha, or the Source. Whatever IT is, it’s not uncommon to have some sort of mystical experience during a psychedelic journey, and meet the Divine. Whether IT is real, or a product of the effects of the psychedelic, meeting the divine is usually a good thing

While there are not many risks in this specific area, it can still be helpful to contemplate your spirituality. Are you religious? Did you used to be? Is this an area you never really get the chance to think about? 

The most important aspect of this area is simply to be aware of what may become a spiritual or mystical experience and ponder how that may affect you. 

Social Prep

Something that can be extremely beneficial before a psychedelic journey is speaking with your trusted loved one about your upcoming experience. We do recommend that they are people you feel safe sharing this with, and not someone who would criticize you in any way. (I don’t recommend confiding in prohibitionists!)

This can be helpful in a few ways. For one, you will feel safer going into the journey knowing that someone you trust (therapist, partner, sibling ect.) is aware of what you’re doing. Journeys can feel massive and having a trusted loved one who can be there before and after to provide (even just a little bit of) comfort can make a big difference. 

It can also help to work through your intentions with this person. There is strong evidence (see here, and here) that the act of speaking with someone you trust “facilitates cognitive-emotional processes.” They can also provide feedback on your intentions, and help you workshop them. 

If the people you confide in have experience with psychedelic journeys, they may also be able to give you advice for your upcoming journey. They may even be willing to share details about their experience. This kind of advice and feedback can make you feel a whole lot safer going into a journey. 

Landing Prep

Preparing your “landing” is a vital aspect of psychedelic preparation. 

By “landing”, I mean the space and environment you will be returning to after your journey. The key things you will want to focus on are reducing stress, responsibilities, and being intentional about what you want the next few days after your journey to look like. This could be a calm day in the park with your kids, or a nice dinner with a close friend. 

More than anything, plan for space. It might be helpful to catch up on work, do your grocery shopping, and your weekend cleaning before the journey. You might have a lot of processing to do and being able to spend free time at home or however you want will make this easier.

The sense of ease knowing you have a curated landing spot will add to the power of the experience as well. 

If you don’t live alone, it might be wise to let your roommates or partner know about the upcoming journey, and politely ask for what you may need. Whether it’s privacy, tenderness, or ensuring there won’t be a loud party with a keg the next night, it is kind to them and to you to ask for whatever it is you want. 

It’s also highly advisable to avoid or limit time/ conversations with so-called “toxic” people after the journey as best you can. Even if these people are only borderline toxic. Your mind, body, and spirit will be in a tender place post-journey. Because we want our post-journey landing spot to be as soft as possible, it’s important to limit time with people who can trigger you for at least a little while.

Psychedelic Cannabis Journeys Can Help Prepare for Stronger Psychedelic Journeys

There are a number of reasons why cannabis sativa is our psychedelic of choice for all of our journey services. 

We especially love that a psychedelic cannabis journey can help you prepare for stronger psychedelic journeys. 

The tools you can learn and practice before, during, and after a psychedelic cannabis journey translate incredibly well to other plant medicine journeys. Whether it’s psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, Ibogaine, or Huachuma, starting with a psychedelic cannabis journey can help prepare you in a variety of ways. This is especially true for those of you who have never experienced a psychedelic journey of any kind.

We recommend somewhere around a month (or more) between journeys if you choose to use a psychedelic cannabis journey to prepare for a more intense one. 

Agency

As we mentioned earlier, cannabis is the psychedelic with the most agency in two ways. For one, it’s the journey that you will feel the most control over. If you do come face-to-face with something that feels too heavy or overwhelming, it’s much easier to change directions than with other psychedelics. 

It is also the psychedelic journey that is easiest to exit if needed. A few sprays from a high-quality CBD oral product are all that is needed to “hit the brakes”. This is a trait unique to cannabis among other psychedelics.

Going through a psychedelic experience with this kind of agency will provide a deep sense of safety, and will help ease any pre-journey anxieties. 

Familiarity with Altered States of Consciousness

If you have never had a psychedelic experience, it can be helpful to get used to altered states of consciousness without immediately jumping to Ayahuasca or DMT. Psychedelic cannabis can do this for you. 

Altered states of consciousness can be wonderful, joyous, and memorable. But they can also be quite… weird. You might experience vivid imagery, synesthesia, and rapid mood changes ranging from ecstasy to peril.

Psychedelic cannabis can mimic these effects to a lesser or equal degree, and allow you to experience the weirdness with the safety of knowing you can exit whenever you want. 

This also gives you the chance to practice mindfulness-based grounding techniques whenever something unsettling does come up. Working through and with heavy emotions is not always easy. Practicing this in a real but “milder” journey will help you develop the skills and confidence to do so in more intense journeys. 

Aids the Preparation Steps Above

Psychedelic cannabis journeys can contribute to the preparation steps above as well. 

Are you having trouble getting to know yourself? Psychedelic cannabis can enhance self-awareness and introspection to an incredible degree.
Are you having trouble making a habit out of mindfulness and embodiment exercises? Psychedelic cannabis can enhance neuroplasticity, and make habit formation temporarily easier, even after the

journey. With enhanced self-awareness, you might also be able to zone in on why you’re having trouble starting new habits.

Are you trying to lock down your intentions for your journey, but keep getting stuck? Psychedelic cannabis can help with this as well! One of your intentions for the “preparation journey” could be to unearth or discover which intentions feel most alive for your upcoming “intense journey”. 

There are many possible blocks to accessing self-awareness and creativity (such as stress), and a psychedelic cannabis journey can temporarily alleviate these blocks. 

A milder journey can also be a “test run” for your physical prep, and it can provide a baseline. Were you physically comfortable during the journey? Were you rested? Hydrated? This can help you focus on areas you want to improve on for next time.

You can also do the same thing for your spiritual prep, social prep, and landing prep. Did you explore your spirituality enough? Are you comfortable with the people you confided in, and would you go to them again? Were you comfortable with the landing space you curated or do you need to make changes?

A psychedelic cannabis journey can help optimize these preparation steps, and provide a test run to see where you would like to make adjustments.

Building Trust in Yourself and The Process

More than anything, a psychedelic cannabis journey can help you build trust in yourself, and in the process of a psychedelic experience.

You can feel in your bones the confidence that you can handle the roller-coaster-like feeling of a journey. This will ease some of the anxiety you may have before a more intense journey.

You can also know what it is like to go through all of the steps of a psychedelic journey, from beginning to end. This kind of acclimation will do wonders for your pre-journey anxiety, and provide much needed comfort about what it is like to go through a psychedelic journey.

Familiarity, comfort, and confidence in yourself (and the process) will only add to the value you will get from a more intense journey. 

Psychedelic cannabis journeys are an excellent option to find these traits. 

Julian Bost

Julian Bost is a Development Specialist and Psychedelic Sitter for Kinesthesia Leadership and Holistic Therapeutix, a Psychedelic Freelance Writer, a Psychedelic IFS-Therapist in training, and a volunteer for the Nowak Society of the greater Denver area. Julian’s experience includes stints with Psychedelics Today, REMAP Therapeutics, and the Integrated Research Literacy Group. Although his background was originally in economics, he has spent the last several years focused on psychedelics, chronic pain, and mental health. He has studied this intersection through the lens of cognitive psychology, human anatomy, and neuroscience. He also has over 15 years of experience resolving his own pain and injury as a lifelong athlete.
#

All Blogs