Pascal: Hi. Welcome to One Degree Shifts where we explore the beautiful and lifelong journey of psychedelics and integration with leaders in the psychedelic space. My name is Pascal Tremblay and I'm the co-founder of Nectara. We're a psychedelic support ecosystem, and today we're joined by Amanda Efthimiou. Amanda is an advisor to Nectara, and she's a psychedelic integration advocate and educator.
She's the founder of Integra, which helps retreats and facilitators create a culture of integration in her companies and, and in their experiences. And she sits on the board of El Puente, which bridges modern science with indigenous wisdom, and also creating reciprocity for those communities. And she's also part of woven science, which helps incubate and support early stage psychedelic companies.
Amanda also holds a neuroscience degree, and her passion is bridging the science and the sacred, and bridging the psychedelic space with beautiful integration, programming, and support. Hi, Amanda. Welcome.
Amanda: Thank you. Thank you so much, Pascal. It's really a pleasure.
Pascal: How did you get here, Amanda? What's your story? How did you end up working on INTEGRA and Woven and El Puente and all these beautiful things that you're up to. I'd love to hear more of that backstory.
Amanda: So my journey in the sacred plant medicine and psychedelic space began around eight years ago. So I was someone who entered this world, not perhaps traditionally through experimenting as a teenager with different forms of psychedelics, and then, wanting to go deeper. In fact, I was someone who, growing up in the US, I was suffering from anxiety, and I was taking all forms of pharmaceutical drugs. And it turns out later, I realized that I was doing so to really treat symptoms rather than addressing really what was the root cause of the issues that I was having.
And I was living in New York at the time and I met this wonderful community of people who were doing things a bit differently. I had never really done meditation before, or had been starting with yoga and other practices, but I was still new to it; and they showed me different ways of taking my power back, essentially, and being able to start looking at different ways to heal and to make myself well again. And I entered this world of plant medicine and needless to say, it opened a door; it, by no means, is any cure, but it really showed me the way and brought a lot of autonomy back to my personal healing process.
And I put that to the back of my mind for a while. And I went back to working with startups and with tech companies. But I've been a long time mental health advocate, and I've always been talking about how mental health is really one of the most important pillars of our lives. And I decided to look back at what actually helped me in my mental health journey, and I wanted to understand the scientific and academic perspectives of plant medicines, of psychedelics, so to speak.
So I did this master's program in neuroscience where I wanted to understand how we can integrate these plant medicines with traditional therapies. And I chose doing some research around people with depression and anxiety, something that I can myself relate with, and how we can weave those two modalities together. And it was around that time that I met the founders of Woven Science, and after hearing about what they were doing and also the foundation that they were developing, I decided to jump right in and work with them.
And as I was doing so with Woven and El Puente, which we'll talk, I also realized that there's a real gap currently in the psychedelic space where, right now we're really focused on drug development and on how the different compounds that are being created to address these mental illnesses and other issues that people are having. And I realize that we're not looking at how we're actually integrating these transformational experiences.
Amanda: Exactly. So I said, okay the industry is really focused on this, but what about integration. And that's where I've also launched my company called INTEGRA, which is focused on developing integration pathways for different – all sorts of transformational containers of experience, so they can be psychedelic, non-psychedelic, it can be any form of a journey that you go on for personal transformation. And that's a little bit of how I got here.
Pascal: Beautiful. Thanks for sharing and thanks for bringing the word integration, and so many things that you're doing it is a key thing and it is something that, of course, Nectara is working on as well. And the more people that work on it the better. I think there's a massive wave of people that are going to engage with the medicines coming up, and having the proper support systems in place are going to be a real key to fulfill the true promise of the psychedelic space. So thank you for working on that and spending your energy on such a thing. And you mentioned the foundation from Woven, El Puente, I'd love to hear more about its mission and what is it doing in the world right now, and what's its vision.
Amanda: Yeah, so El Puente, so we are a nonprofit foundation, and essentially, we are creating a model of reciprocity and regeneration for the psychedelic sector. And we do that by facilitating access and benefit sharing with indigenous communities. So essentially, we're a bridge between the sacred traditions and wisdom of indigenous wisdom with the modern application of psychedelics therapy. And we do that beginning with participatory planning and reparations, first and foremost, since we need to really begin with reparations before committing to this concept of reciprocity, which I'm sure we can talk about.
And then, we do that by also facilitating grants and investments into indigenous owned and operated projects that promote biocultural preservation, ecological restoration of endangered ecosystems, environmental education programs, and different kinds of sustainability initiatives to help create and sustain resilient. And we largely work with indigenous communities, that specifically stewards sacred plant medicines around the world. Our focus right now is on South America, so we're working with indigenous communities based in Brazil and Ecuador and Colombia and in Peru.
Pascal: And how does the foundation support the communities, how do you go about doing that?
Amanda: Yeah, so our foundation, we're guided by four pillars: sovereignty, education, regeneration, and reciprocity. And these pillars are our method of guiding these projects that we're implementing. And the first with sovereignty, it's really this acknowledgement and recognition of indigenous rights and territories beyond a colonial conception of inclusion, and instead, we're acknowledging indigenous rights to self-determination. We do this by developing really comprehensive stakeholder engagement process, long-term agreements with people on the ground that are needed to support the recovery of indigenous lands, languages, and ecosystems.
On an education side, we are supporting the knowledge transfer and sharing of practices between bio regions, communities, organizations, so we do that by facilitating training, certifications, workshops in person at these indigenous communities themselves. And with regeneration, so this is where we are sponsoring regenerative projects for ecological restoration, and we do that through creating ethnobotanical reserves, which is our key model for applicating all four of our pillars together for the benefit of these communities.
And with reciprocity, this is our model of exchange that's amplifying the local businesses, and distributing the resources to the projects that are owned by and directed by these indigenous communities. So it's not just about financial returns, it's about the biodiversity returns, how can we amplify and sustain these ecosystems, it's about creating integrated working teams with indigenous leaders, with local stakeholders, with research institutions, and ultimately, we want to create self-sustainability within the communities themselves.
So we're really about processes first and foremost, before we work on projects. I think there's this notion of just, maybe like a colonial philanthropic model where we go in, we have one or two different projects, we raise capital, we distribute the funds, we put everything in place. And then, we walk away. So we're not interested in doing that, we're leading with an indigenous mindset. My co-director, he is an indigenous man, mestizo indigenous from Argentina, and we are on the ground, we're leading by listening.
We go and we're first and foremost humbly listening to what it is that these indigenous communities need, and what's the best way to help them achieve their goals. And we're implementing these processes. And then, if that means there's a specific project that's needed, that they want support in either to create these ethnobotanical reserves or a retreat center or an education program for the urban indigenous youth outside of their aldeas or outside of their lands, deep in the rainforest, there's many different ways that we're looking at it.
Pascal: So it's a very bottoms up approach of really empowering indigenous people to make their own decisions, and listening to the communities basically. It really reminds you of the Sacred Headwaters project from the Pachamama Alliance, and how they've been also doing the same model, and I really love that, and Chacruna's Indigenous Reciprocity Initiative also has a very similar approach, which I love as well.
What is the relationship with your work and the plant medicines, and what did you see as an organization that you were wanting to solve really, in terms of the relationship between indigenous communities and plant medicines and the world beyond that, what were you seeing that kind of motivated you to create this organization?
Amanda: Yeah, so what we saw is, with this advent of a renaissance, so to speak, of psychedelics in which I would even add about the word Renaissance, and I was recently in the Amazon now, in Brazil, I was speaking with one of the directors of a conference that I attended with indigenous communities represented, it was an indigenous led conference with about 300 leaders from around South America. One of the directors of the conference said, it's never – renaissance implies that something had died, and is now being reborn. For them this has never been anything that's ever died away. The plants have always been part of their lives, their culture, their identity, there's no renaissance to them. It's a continuation.
Amanda: And this is something that really stuck with me, but with this advent of this word, and this resurgence, so to speak, in Western cultures, we're really interested in these plants, and we want to go deeper with them. And part of what we do at Woven is we're really investing in this ecosystem. We want to understand how people are going to be engaging with psychedelics, plant medicines across their, we call, a treatment arc.
But what does that mean? That means potentially we're using medicines that are being cultivated outside of the area that we live. And you can say something about magic mushrooms, they can be grown, they have origins with Mazatec, but they can be grown in our own backyard in many cases. But specifically, something like ayahuasca, that has its origins in the Amazon region. And we're interested in not just our own use of these medicines, but what does it actually mean for these communities ultimately for sustaining their culture, their identity, and for sustaining the ecosystems.
We know that the indigenous are stewarding, I don't know, there's a percentage about how they make up single digit percentage of the population, but they're stewarding more than 80% of the world's biodiversity. And what is our role in that as an industry? So this is something that we really thought about, and we wanted to do that led from an indigenous mindset and not in a traditional philanthropic sort of perspective, and the way perhaps some others in more traditional non-profit models that we're working in.
Pascal: And what are you seeing in the communities what are they saying – and what I've heard is there's a lot of communities that have had to have economical benefits from plant medicines, and the sake of doing that have been changing the fabric of their culture a little bit in the way the society works. What have you seen and heard from different communities around plant medicine use and how it's changed their communities?
Amanda: Definitely, so I would say that some communities, when I do speak of some of these perspectives, it is, first and foremost, my interpretation and my perspective of what I've heard and seen. And that's also a fundamental difference in how we talk about indigenous traditions, perspectives, cosmovision. So from my perspective of what I've heard and also acknowledging that these indigenous communities are not all jumbled into one sort of bucket, that they're very much coming from different perspectives. It's a very complex sort of tapestry, so to speak.
But for some of them, it's been highly beneficial for them to be able to bring their medicine out into other areas. They themselves are coming to the United States, to Europe, further on, even into Asia, and they're doing these plant ceremonies, obviously, in an underground context. And for them, it's a source of, as you say, it's a source of financial sustainability. They bring these back to their aldeas and then they can create these retreat centers locally that they can then attract people. So there is this reciprocal model in that way.
For some other communities, they're really against bringing the medicine outside of the Amazon, and they want people – they say, if you want to come, you come to us and leave, and if you choose to do so outside, then leave these plants alone and find other ways of doing medicine that's not specifically the ones coming from where – from the Amazon.
So very different perspectives. I would also add that for many of the communities, this really goes beyond plant medicine, so to speak, in terms of where their core issues are at the moment. One of the, at this conference, one of the people who spoke, his name is Alex Lucitante from the Cofán community in Ecuador. I spoke with him after and I asked, “So you're coming from so many different communities, so many different perspectives, and what is it that's bringing you all here together that's uniting you, so how do you all see things the same, if at all, is there one thing that you can unite on and agree on?”
And he said, “Look, for us, it's about territory. Without territory, we don't have our identity. Without identity, we don't have territory. ” So for them it's really about the reclaiming of their territory and having the right to the lands that they're living on. And what I noticed is that for them there is, of course, a deep connection with these plant medicines. But there's a larger sort of theme here, and that is their land, their right to live, and their right to their lands.
And that's also why we're at El Puente, we're really working on ecosystems, restoration, conservation, and reforestation efforts, because we see that it's beyond just reforesting ayahuasca vines, for example, but it's actually about planting trees and teacher plants of all kinds, so that we can have a stronger ecosystem.
Pascal: And an ecosystem that can I like to talk about psychedelics as if it was Mother Earth's defense immune system, and helping us connect to different teachings and different ways of the world that can help us get over the kind of societal issues that we've been having, that creating a new paradigm is like the narrative of psychedelics often is creating a new paradigm.
And a lot of that new paradigm a lot of the stuff that's part of this new paradigm has been around for a long time. These are like troops that were discovered and felt and experienced for thousands of years before we came along and experienced psychedelics. And with Woven and El Puente and the conversations we've had, there's a lot of talk about weaving in indigenous wisdom into modern living and science and research. And as a neuroscientist yourself, doing the work you're doing that as a part of your purpose.
And why do you think this is happening now – this emergence or, I don't want to use the word renaissance, like you said, it's not the right word, but this reemergence of kind of the indigenous wisdom ways into the modern living?
Amanda: Yeah, there's a couple of thoughts I have around that. The first is this, I think we're starting to realize that what we really need above all things is, or what we really want above all things is connection, and we're looking to reconnect with ourselves, with others, with our loved ones, with the world around us. I think we're increasingly being sucked into this modern world of way too much technology that's making us more isolated, things like COVID that just kept us at home. We're becoming more antisocial, we're unable to relate to others in real life context.
And we're looking for a deeper connection, and we're looking for ways to do that. And often, psychedelics have come on as this big shock to the system of giving us a dose of what we have never experienced before, that one of the effects of is reconnecting more deeply with ourselves. And I feel that what I've observed and what we see with indigenous wisdom is their intrinsic connection with the natural world.
And many indigenous languages don't have a word for nature, because for them, they are nature is them, there's no break there. And they're about living in harmony with nature, and the balance between them and the world that they're in. And we're looking for that too, and in some way, that's perhaps a way that we can learn from the relationships that they have to their environment.
So in one way, we have connection, of course. And then, another way that there's this sort of connection here with psychedelics and even with wisdom traditions is this concept of ritual and intention – intention and ritual. So for them, they have a very specific ritual depending on the community that they're coming from, and their particular tradition, and their cosmovision.
And we also have rituals where we – our rituals are often going to a doctor for our yearly checkup. That is a ritual that many of us do. And there's nothing wrong with bringing our context that we're comfortable with. For example, if that means more in a clinical environment, taking a psilocybin mushroom capsule with the presence of a psychotherapist or a psychiatrist, or doing ketamine assisted therapy with the presence of a therapist, these are ways of creating a setting that we're really comfortable with.
And it can be done in a ritualized context, as long as we have the sort of intention placed. We could call it – we can make it a sacred intention, but sacred could have different connotations. But yeah, it's this marrying, I think of intention and ritual that we can really connect with some of these wisdom traditions.
Pascal: I read in a book a couple of years ago that our alphabet, the English, or alphabet, the letters used to represent different animals or different forms of pieces of nature plants and things like that, and over time the alphabet actually started changing to have no relationship whatsoever to the symbols of nature and the animals. And in our language itself that this connection has been built into the language that we're using, the way we're forming words, and the way we're writing them, there's been a break away from nature hundreds of years ago, and I found that very interesting that language can change culture like that. And which one came first, the chicken or the egg, right?
Pascal: Yeah, but now we're discovering, like you said so well the disconnection to ourselves and others in the web of life, it's really at the core of all of our ailments, I believe. And what does it look like then to have a modern world woven into indigenous wisdom or wisdom traditions as well and, reformulating the way that we've been living from a more intentional, ceremonial and connected way, what is the vision of that?
Amanda: Yeah, for me, personally, it would be wonderful if psychedelics were one of the many tools because there are many, and we also cannot generalize and, put psychedelics as this cure-all, care of goodness and greatness for everyone, and that's going to solve everyone's problems. But it's one of the many tools in our toolbox that if we actually look within and uncover the different tools, yeah, what I see is that's a conduit for us having that reconnection, and what does it look like to have these traditions woven into our life.
We start to create our own stories. We start to create our own rituals. We start to create habits that become sacred in and of themselves, that we then pass on to our families, to our loved ones. We rediscover this harmony with nature, even if nature is in our local park and we live in a concrete jungle in a big city, but we find these little elements that we can still reconnect to our origins, to our ancestry, and create new relationships with these places. If we can do that with intention, and we can pass that on, and we can take a moment to just pause, I think that we can be far more compassionate and kind individuals and more intentional with what we do. It's a tough one, yeah.
Pascal: Yeah, a lot of beautiful things can come from reconnecting, and I think for us whose experience is psychedelic experience, for me, the most healing moments I have in group ceremonies is, yeah, the experience is beautiful, but what I love is the shared humanity that goes around the circle when you're sharing and creating ceremony and intention around the experience is that you realize that you're not so much different than other people, and we've all got stuff to carry, and we've all got stories and pain and joy. And ultimately, we all want the same things, we want clean air, we want clean water, we want community, we want purpose, we want harmony.
And so when you connect with that feeling, I found that to be the most healing part of my journey has been just to reconnect with that shared humanity. And beyond that, just using that as a way to reconnect with their world around me in a way that's connected and not separate, and I ultimately, for me the vision is very similar, is just reconnecting with the entire web of life and understanding that Ramdas says, we're all walking ourselves back home.
And I really like that as a – and the benefits from that, of course, like you said, more compassion, more empathy, more connected, more purpose, and more alignment, and more joy and laughter. We're a community based people, and we love to gather around the fire and just share and just be normal and be human together. And I find that by itself to be the most healing part of the medicine journey.
So when you're creating a harmony – let's imagine that we're creating this harmonious paradigm where spirit meets science and where wisdom meets logic, what do you think needs to happen in the world for society to move towards that, what are the key pieces that you see, engines of that change psychedelics being one of them, what are the other kind of modalities and things that maybe we've been missing as a whole?
Amanda: To answer this with a different perspective, I think what can sustain, let's say, we find these modalities, we have psychedelics, we find these other tools of personal transformation, we uncover ways that can also have a top down, change needs to happen top down and bottom up as well. We need to meet a little bit in the middle.
And let's say, we find the right avenues towards affecting leadership to create different policies and changes within government as well, I do believe in the power of these big institutions and creating new infrastructures and frameworks for us to live in doesn't – yes, of course, it comes from grassroots activism and it comes from entrepreneurship and whatnot, but when the two marry, when you have entrepreneurship and government and policy working together to make solutions let's say, we're doing all of this, we can have all this wonderful utopia in front of us where we're starting to do group and collective transformation and healing, but if we're not integrating, then it falls flat.
And this is something that I'm seeing as one of the big points that we should be looking at now is actually how we're going to be integrating all of this wisdom that we're getting from within us. Not even wisdom that we receive from going into the jungle, most of us don't have access to this, that's not the most sustainable option either. It's not about necessarily when we're a bridge between wisdom and science, we're also bridging that within us.
So when we get that inner wisdom and we see that peak experience, and we're at the top of the mountain after going through this incredible psychedelic journey or breath work journey, or whatever the journey is, if we're not integrating that and actually bringing that back into our daily lives, creating new habits, changing our mindsets, shifting our relationships that better – that have been challenging for us, as leaders, if we're not implementing these insights into the way that we lead in our companies for our employees, our colleagues, if we're not making these changes in our behaviors that affect your environment from a sustainability perspective, then we're not going to actually make true lasting change. So I do feel that integration is a really key component for us to actually achieve this world where these things are in harmony and imbalance.
Pascal: Yes, and not being attached to the bigness of things the new paradigm, and this sounds really, like you said, a token and everything, it's a huge thing. But then, what can I do right now to embody that new paradigm, like, how am I sitting right now, like, how am I breeding, how am I hosting a podcast right now that's all integration, that's the everyday stuff that really ends up building these new paradigms.
So I find a lot of peace in the word devotion rather than discipline having a devotion to the small things that can create the big things and not being like, oh, I need to have it all figured out right now, that's been really helpful for me. Yeah, so bring it down to the basics helps bring utopias to life, yeah, beautiful.
Amanda: Yeah, I love that.
Pascal: I want to shift gear a little bit and come back a bit to the indigenous element, and I think we've all heard about cultural appropriation in the space and the way, people are hosting ceremonies or the songs they're singing, and are they acknowledging the teachers, or is this okay to be doing in this space am I allowed to do that, there's a lot of different nuances of learning from indigenous communities, and then bringing that back home in some way within ourselves and as people holding spaces or being the therapists or coaches or ceremonialist people. I'd like to open up the topic around cultural appropriation versus appreciation of the cultures, and then, the attribution as well. Can you speak about those nuances and what is your perspective on those things?
Amanda: Yeah, that's a really great point, and actually that's something I myself am still uncovering and learning.
It's a deep process and it's first that acknowledgement that it's going to take a lot more listening before I can fully say this is how the standard of what is appropriation, what is not. But I would say that there's elements there that maybe some of us in our, in the west or the global north, or however it is that we call us that we may not be fully aware of or conscious of.
For example, when we're undergoing these beautiful ceremonies, when we go straight to the jungle, for example, we go and we have a ritual and a ceremony, and we're participants, we're doing a dieta; we experience a very traditional way of doing plant medicine, let's say, with ayahuasca, for example, and we are connecting with the indigenous there, with the shamans, and we see their beautiful feathers, and we want to be able to have a memory of this, and take this home with us and wear the feathers and wear the materials, the jaguar teeth that these shamans, these pagé are wearing after they've spent years in the forest.
And for us, we come from a more of a consumer culture where we have this want for these object, and even if we have complete reverence for using them and outside of that context, there is an element of appropriation there, and specifically with certain items like feathers and jaguar teeth, for example, these are contributing, even if these indigenous communities are selling them to us, they are still contributing to a commercialization of items that are coming from animals that, perhaps initially, when they are picking the feathers, they come from, for example, birds that have already died and that have fallen, but now they're starting to kill the birds, for example, to take the feathers.
So this is something that we need to be mindful of, that is beyond just appropriating a certain cosmovision, but it's actually, if we're going to address a certain way, what is the impact that we're actually having on these communities. Perhaps, yes, they will be receiving a financial compensation immediately, so that's the immediate gain for them, but what is actually the long term impact from a sustainability perspective.
And there's another concept of, I think, when we're talking about ah as I mentioned before, an indigenous perspective, this is what the indigenous feel, this is their cosmovision. Even the eagle condor prophecy, for example, is something that we reference a lot, and it's very much part of their, some of their cosmovision, but again, it's not everyone, every indigenous community's story. And what I've started to now learn to do is if I'm working with these communities, I'm taking very strong note of the people, the name of the person, the community that they come from, and very much this is an attribution of this specific person's perspective. They are not representing – they're not even representing their community, let alone, the entire indigenous sort of worldview.
So it's also about taking extra care to attribute, and, yeah, the nuances of the modern day spiritual leaders who are working and doing dietas, and doing deep work with these leaders who are not indigenous, and then serving medicine in our western contexts, I don't have a personal answer yet to what, if that's – there's no right or wrong in my view to this because everyone has an individual path, and I cannot generalize in any way.
But there is a bit of these nuances there, and I would also add that we can't romanticize any form of indigenous perspective where there's complexities with all of us. There's just as we might disagree on the way of using a specific medicine, and western medicine, whether or not it's good for us, etc., there's certainly complexities there. So we cannot say that every indigenous from every community has their, our best interest at heart in undergoing certain experiences and all of this.
And I would also say that there's this, when we speak of indigenous, especially in the psychedelic space, there's been an emphasis on the communities, let's say, in the US, which is where the psychedelics sort of renaissance is really unfolding at a more rapid pace, there's this emphasis on giving back and reciprocity towards communities outside of the US.
So for example, South America, El Puente is focusing on this region or in Africa, etc. And there's almost an erasure of the Native Americans that are coming from the US and Canada and North American countries and Mexico. And what about the communities from these lands? So it seems like we're almost – we're just ignoring this very large part of our history, only recently did the US change Columbus State Indigenous Peoples' Day, for example. So I'm sure you can speak to that as well, given...
Pascal: In Canada, yeah, for sure, there's still indigenous communities here in Canada that don't have clean drinking water, which is a real shame and just a real, given Canada's one of the richest countries in the world, like, how is that happening. But there is, you're right, a very deep wounding that hasn't been fully healed and acknowledged in the collective space. And, you feel it in the energies around if you're connected to community that has had a history of oppressing indigenous people, it's in the collective fabric of the energies around you.
I believe, conversations like this and ideas that the El Puente is putting forward and other people in the space are putting forward are itching away a little bit, itching away towards reparation and deep healing and wounding, and it's going to take time cause it's a big piece, there's a lot of work for all of us to do around.
Amanda: Absolutely. And I would say, one of the organizations that's doing really amazing work, specifically in North America is our friends, the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund. They are Indigenous-led. The current sort of logistical and operational directors are represented from Isears and from RiverStyx Foundation, they came together and they have this organization called IMC, and they work with the five medicine lines and one of them being with Peyote, and they're doing really deep, on the ground, stakeholder engagement with Native American communities that use Peyote.
And this is their wonderful organization that's also acknowledging that there's been the sort of erasure of, we're talking about – we think of plant medicines, we go immediately to ayahuasca, we go immediately to South America, and then, we ignore what's under our noses in North America, at least. So I just want to give a shout-out to them and the work that they're doing.
Pascal: Yeah, and you can support them by supporting Grow Medicine, which is their kind of philanthropic or reciprocity based organization. That's one way to contribute. You mentioned the word romanticization earlier, and in our show notes you mentioned the romanticization of the shamanic space. And what does that mean? I'd love for you to expand on that concept.
Amanda: Yeah, so it's this concept of, because it might work in there in the indigenous origin for a specific group of people to have healing or a deeper understanding of their relationship to the world around them in that context that it might work for everyone in every situation. So there's a reason why there's this medical movement here that's happening, this clinical perspective that's growing in the West. And yes, part of that is we work based on science and research and scientific evidence, and it's also a really easy way to remove the stigmas around using psychedelics as a tool for healing. It starts with that, and also an acknowledgement that not all psychedelics are based naturally, you have some that are synthesized in a lab, so it lends itself to easier use in a clinical context.
But it's more just to say that we have different set and setting and different contexts for healing that we shouldn't try and label one as superior than another, just because perhaps one of these plant medicines has an origin in that container of use. So yeah, it's more of that kind of romanticization of the shamanic experience, and also of psychedelics in general of it being this magic pill, this magic tool for healing. It's not for everyone. There are many different tools, as I said before, on the toolkit, and that's one of them.
Pascal: Yeah, I remember years and years ago, when I was a younger man, I would say, oh, we should totally put MDMA in the water supply, that would totally help all our problems. No, it's not – that's not good, Pascal, it's not a good idea at all. It's not going to help solve everything, might create more problems actually.
You mentioned ritual earlier, there has been a largest connection with this ceremony and kind of the sacredness of it of life really in the western world, can you talk a bit more about the importance of weaving in that ceremony and sacredness into our daily life?
Amanda: Yeah it's my belief that ceremony and sacredness while rooted, perhaps with an intention, with an individual intention that helps us ground into why it is that we're really embarking on this path, it's also really connected to, as you also alluded to earlier, it's connected to collective healing, collective transformation. So how we heal individually is how we transform collectively, I really believe in that. And that's groups coming together to sit in circle, to sit in, however it is a sacred act, and it's been done in many different ways, in many different contexts, and in various cultures around the world for hundreds, thousands of years.
We've been sitting in circle and we've been just sitting by a fire or having a conversation or telling stories, oral traditions, that there's a lot of history there for many different cultures. And where am I going with this – for me there's a real connection there, and how we can weave that into our lives is finding more spaces for sharing and for collective work for working together as groups.
How do we do that without psychedelics? I myself have been working with women for many years. I do sharing circles, and we work in different cycles. And just by hearing the stories of women and what they're going through in a particular moment in time, that is a mirror to my own processes, what I'm going through, and I'm healing just by listening to the other person. And that is a very sacred act, is this deep listening. When we're deeply listening, so much can come through.
I myself really experienced that now when I was in Brazil acre. I spent a week of hours and hours of deep listening, there's nothing to say, there was nothing for me to do or to act. I really had to shift my way of being from this sort of, maybe this more western modern way of just having, okay, I received this information, what am I going to do with this information. It's no, we just listen, that's sacred.
And we take the time to slow down, to have patience with ourselves, with what we're listening to, with what we say. So there's a lot there that I hope that the modern age or the age of technology can help us. There is technology that's helping us revisit this. Not all technology, of course, is bad. But yeah, I have hope for this new paradigm, as you mentioned as well.
Pascal: There was a man where I sat in circle, like the summer, and his words stuck to me, and he said, honor the spirit of the words before they leave your mouth really honor the spirit of the words before speaking. If I could spend the rest of my life working on that and just really focusing on that, I can see lots of transformation happening to just communicate and express and deep listening, just in all relationships, not just with other people outside, but also within ourselves listening to ourselves and the nature around us as well deep listening. It's a beautiful idea to explore for ourselves.
I'd love to talk about integration and wellness now. It's something that you're really passionate about – you've been talking about it for years. How do we upgrade our wellness? What are the ways that we can do that? What's your personal vision of how we upgrade our wellness from a societal level, but also maybe individually as well?
Amanda: How do we upgrade our wellness? Doing that takes sometimes some hard truths, some real looking within, I don't know if society's fully ready for that kind of transformation. Yeah, we have to start looking at wellness and not illness, not disease. It's not about waiting for the time when our bodies hit a burnout and a level of ill health that we need to then do something to change it. Upgrading our wellness is starting from wellness, not ending with wellness. It's not going from shifting disease to wellness, it's all of, this sort of symptoms based approach of treating what's going on, and then maybe you'll get well.
We need to start from the beginning with this mentality of having a healthy and well balanced life. That takes a lot of shifts in how we make decisions, it takes a lot of sort of top down changes as well in the way that we do business for even from things that are male cycles, the way, circadian male rhythm with a female lunar cycle and how we work individually as women. There are some parts of the day, week, month that we're just, our ways of making decisions are a little bit different, we follow a different cycle.
And if we're forced, me personally, if I'm forced into sort of the masculine way of working, I'm not honoring my body, and then, my body's going to react over time and it's going to be unwell, just taking that personal example. But there's, we got to stop with the, let's start covering things, and it's really amazing to see these different tools now with biohacking and what are the different nutrition and different pills and supplements that we can take, and that's wonderful and good, in that we're getting in that direction.
But I think, as a society, we need to start thinking of ourselves, just to start building the habits of wellness from the beginning, from an early age, how do we educate our kids, reform the education system, so that we can educate our kids in this way. Having them have more interaction, kids with nature, and if one child has more excitement to working with their hands and being outside, to let them do that and develop their skills in that way, that over time will lead them to have more resilience. They will build that health within them, and then they won't be forced into a box in a different – in a system that doesn't serve them, which then leads them to be sick over time.
So there's a lot of things that need to change from the very beginning, and we can start, I think if we're going to be using things like psychedelics and going through these really profound transformational states, if we're integrating – again, if we're really integrating what we're learning, we can create these systems for the next generation, and we can start now to make sure that wellness starts from the beginning as opposed to being an afterthought.
Pascal: I like that, yeah, I like that a lot. And it's such a key point too of starting with wellness. You're right, we do have wellness that this idea of oh, I'm going to reach wellness, but how do we start from that perspective of honoring our bodies, and the time we're in, and the seasons we're in, and the energies that are around us and what's present, what's being asked of me right now, and what's my capacity for that as well.
Those are really important questions that can be hard to untangle because we have had generations and generations of people living in a very oppressive system that's built in oppression in our nervous system and violence in a lot of ways. So we're rewiring a lot of very big things, being gentle for ourselves along the way that we don't have it all figured out right away, and that's okay, we're working towards something and are reframing very important things for the next generation.
That is a real honor to be able to be growing up in this time where there's so many big lessons to be had, and for those that want to receive them, and also, like you said, integrate them, I think that's the key bridge between this old paradigm and this new paradigm of being – and as we are living and breathing the psychedelic space, we've all seen the extremes around that too, around like chasing peak experiences and psychedelics are going to solve everything.
What would you like to say around how do we look beyond psychedelics?
Amanda: Yeah, ultimately, truthfully, I think psychedelics, they're here right now, especially, the plant-based ones, the sacred plant medicines, they're here now, but they may not be here – they may not be here far into the future. So we're going to have to find ways to really look within. If we want to reach those peak experiences or those transformational moments, they have to come in from different sources. And beyond psychedelics is thinking beyond this concept of transformation that's induced by something that's outside of us.
I think that there's a lot of people who started mentioning this, it's people are using medicine to do the work, there's this bypass, spiritual bypass element where they do a ceremony, and then they want to find an answer to this question that they got during the ceremony. So they do another ceremony to try and find the answer, and it's no, actually, you don't need to keep going back. There's that time and space and slowness and the work is really, after the ceremony ends, that's when the medicine starts. I believe Nectara really also fundamentally believes in that.
And what's next? I think we're going to start looking at, as an industry, what I see also working with Woven is, as I said before, there's this focus on drug development, but them, what about the delivery and the infrastructure around sustainable, accessible use of psychedelics as a treatment, but also as a tool for wellness, and that's involving all the different elements, that's involving yes, the education and training of therapists and integration therapists, but also redefining what it means to go to a retreat center, do we bring these centers in urban areas; do we make this more of a church 2.0 where we're going on a regular basis to a group like a center and then come back and it's more integrated into our life, instead of something where we have to go very far away and have this very profound experience that is so disconnected from our reality.
So I think what's beyond that sort of the psychedelic movement is bringing these experiences into the folds of our daily life. And they can be minor things like cultivating new practices, self-care practices, like a journaling practice, a meditation practice, they can be the creation of these community centers that are tools for collective sharing and reengaging with the people that are close to us and to the people that ultimately shape our day to day life, rather than looking at the big picture all the time and always trying to have this macro view of everything. It's about the day to day. So that's part of it, I believe.
Pascal: Yeah, that's beautiful. The micro also leading to the macro, reconnecting with ourselves and others in the planet as well, I believe, ultimately, we talked about this connection earlier, that ultimately, we all want to reconnect with those things, and there's a deeply seated desire for us to reconnect. And these daily little practices eventually lead to life itself being a ceremony, and like Alan Watts said, you get the phone call and eventually you get the message and you hang up.
To me that's the ultimate goal of working with psychedelics for myself is I'm doing less and less ceremonies, and I'm doing much more small things that I view as a little ceremony that maybe I'm integrating my ceremony from six years ago by doing this little thing, I'm like, oh, I'm starting to get the message slowly. And that feels really good to be able to have this microdosing of integration on an everyday level, and that slows me down so much, and I don't quite have this chase of the external anymore. I know that, like you said, you are the medicine, I find that very beautiful to live life that way, and how much beauty and nourishment and wisdom we can get from that perspective of not always looking outwards for the medicine we're looking for.
You touched around the industry, and as we've been looking for funding as well we've been hearing from a lot of investors, no, we're actually investing in the biotech side, we're investing in the drugs and the patents, and there's this new plan in Africa that kind of feels like MDMA with no side effects, with like millions of dollars going into that. And I want to shout on the top of all the rooftops, it's great, we have the medicine, we have the experiences, we have the retreat centers. Who's going to translate these things and help people translate these things into everyday sustainable change, and so what's your perspective of the industry – and there's so many different aspects and nuances to the space, but what have you been seeing that you find interesting?
Amanda: I do find the industry really fascinating. There was this sort of moment where everyone was pouring capital in because they were seeing all the studies and the research, and there was this big trend and hype. And then, we realized that, from a drug development perspective, the clinical trials take many years. It's not about having one or two studies that show statistically significant results, which therefore means that all other indications are also going to be benefit from that medicine. This sort of, this model of drug development model, the investment model takes time, it's very complex, it's not for the investor who just wants to see the quick return.
So what's interesting about the industry now is I think there's been this necessary correction, and the people that are still here and that are really working in this industry to create a strong foundation, they truly believe in the space. They're really here to stay from the entrepreneurs, to the investors, to the nonprofits, to the likes of MAPS that have been doing things for a long time, and they're doing amazing stuff, and who would've thought that they'd be in the position that they are now, especially with MDMA.
And what I'm seeing is yes, there maybe was this little bit of a bubble, and then there was a bit of fear, and then the results didn't come back in enough time. And maybe it'll be 2024-2025 before psilocybin becomes legal for depression or FDA approved rather for depression. Or the discussions in Oregon are – not that they're, they're moving, but there's all kinds of complexity there. There's not this cookie gutter solution, and yeah, the industry, I believe is still strong. We might be less individuals and people, but we are even stronger because we do believe in what's to come, and the people are just fascinating and they really, there's all kinds of people in this industry.
We have like indigenous activists, then we have people who are tech entrepreneurs, who are doing amazing stuff with apps that are like breath work related or meditation related, and then they also take psychedelics, so they're weaving that in and there's just all kinds of things happening. And there's this resurgence of education for the therapists, there's so many people now who are looking to qualify themselves in this. And I am very hopeful of a very strong industry in the future.
Pascal: Me too. I love the people in this space so much and the communities that are gravitating around different ideas or projects. And to me, I came from an environmental conservation background and was really working on campaigns to, for example, stop oil pipelines or raise up indigenous land rights in BC, and I found that space wasn't my main purpose, because I found that there was a lot of pain within myself and others that was not healed. And when I entered a psychedelic space, I realized that was the most important thing for me to be spending the rest of my life working on. And as I've been, navigating and exploring this space, I've found so many people that are just in deep service to humanities unfoldment.
I find that so humbling and so beautiful, and that's what really drives me forward is like, meeting people like you and others that are in deep service, in selfless service to the highest potential of humanity. And I found that very motivating, and you're right, the people that are sticking around, I've even had conversations with people you would qualify as like traditional VCs that are just like in deep dedication to the space, and in deep dedication to the work that they're doing. And yeah, so I'm really energized by that too, and I'm really excited about what's coming up and what's possible to, in the next 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, and just how important the work that's happening is going to change for my son, and other people for next generations and for the present moment as well.
What would you like to say around like capital versus impact and, the funding that's happening right now, a lot of it is based on, yes, unfolding of the space and the human potential, there's also a very strong capitalistic, and you mentioned the bubble that happened, what would you like to say around the balance between impact and capital in businesses?
Amanda: Yeah, I think everyone is navigating things a bit different in the industry, everyone has a model that they're looking at. And I would say specifically with how we're looking to as a non-profit to receive, so what we're trying to do with El Puente specifically is when we say we want to be a model of reciprocity for the industry is, we're interested in how other companies that also want to do good and they want to make impact, but they don't necessarily want to, for example, create their own foundation, do all this sort of on the ground work. They want to entrust specific entities that are really doing that and in a way contribute their capital. They do that through perhaps their equity, for example.
So we’re model, a vehicle for equity to be from not only Woven, but also from our portfolio companies, for example. So if anyone is interested in allocating some of that capital into the foundation, they can do there is that sort of model as well. I would say, yeah, for – I can only speak to what we're doing specifically with El Puente. I'm curious if you have some offerings and perspectives on that as well, is what you're doing with Nectara.
Pascal: Yeah for us, the main thing we've always wanted to do is reflect the teachings of the medicine as much as possible within the container of business. And really trying to have a regenerative business that creates relationships that are win-win for everyone involved, and not at the expense of our values and our purpose and our mission. So there's always – there's a non-negotiable there around how we do business.
We're an impact first company; and at the same time we need capital to grow, so we've developed a model for ourselves that really works for hearts, and also works for investors as well that creates those win-win relationships with an eye on the highest level of impact that we can do, and trying to create a company that isn't a boomer bust unicorn that's going to fade away in 10 years, but more of looking at creating a culture and a corporate structure really as well, and legal framework to create an organization that can last for a hundred years, that goes way beyond the founders.
I feel like psychedelic companies in general, my personal view is that they should be of the highest integrity possible, because we're working with sacred medicines, we're working with sacred teachings, and I think it's very important to have that integrity and sacredness built into the way we do business. I really feel strongly about that.
Amanda: Yeah, likewise, I agree, absolutely.
Pascal: Yeah, there's a lot of beautiful things that are happening in terms of creating businesses and operating them as medicine, and changing the old paradigms of competition and having more collaboration and purpose and internal culture that also reflects the teachings of the medicines, and the way that you treat employees, and the way you pay them, and the way you phrase things, and the way you offer vacation time, for example, and the way you create meetings. And can you create ceremony within your business. There's a lot of really interesting pieces that happen when you start looking at business like a ceremony, and how do you create those spaces that are deeply nourishing for the human soul. I find that business can be a really large vehicle for transformation in that sense.
Is there a parting thought that you'd like to share to whoever's watching right now?
Amanda: It's been such a wonderful conversation. Pascal, you ask really good questions, some of them very nice.
Pascal: Oh, thank you.
Amanda: Yeah, require a lot of thoughts, so thank you. Thank you, really they're big questions, and I love that. It's good to stretch and to think about what the future can look like, and how we can apply it now, and that's all this is one big integration ceremony essentially, right?
Pascal: Yeah, it is, and thank you so much for the work you're doing, and the beautiful thoughts you shared today and perspectives and hope we can engage people in some curiosities and explorations of their own, and love to hear back from people around the topics that we discussed. So thank you so much Amanda, and thanks for connecting and looking forward to more.
Amanda: Thank you, Pascal. Thank you so much.
Pascal: Take care. Bye-bye.