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Psychedelic Integration 101
November 15, 2021
4 min read
What is psychedelic integration?
Integration is the process of improving your mental health and well-being by translating psychedelic experiences into clear insights and embodied action. Integration is about reconnecting to your innate wholeness through devotion, patience, and connection to your higher self.
“Integration is the challenge of transforming flashes of illumination into abiding light.”
Why should I practice integration?
At higher doses, psychedelics have the power to disintegrate you. These substances can shatter everything you think you know about yourself and the world in as little as four hours. There is a reason why psychedelics are found in every ancient mystical tradition: for millennia, they have served as doorways to an entirely new state being.
We share this to highlight the importance of approaching psychedelic experiences with reverence and the value of a thoughtful integration process.
If you’ve exercised the proper set and setting, picked a skilled and ethical practitioner, and did your homework on how to set up your journey before and after, the psychedelic experience can lead to some of the most beautiful and enriching experiences you’ll ever have. The shattering of self is the gift, an opportunity to walk out of the old beaten paths and explore your life in a new and refreshing way. This is where integration comes into play.
First, you’ve got to put yourself back together–who are you now? How have your beliefs shifted? What parts of you have suddenly become inauthentic? It’s like dropping the puzzle box over the floor and then putting all the pieces back in place.
Integration is a process of making sense of the insights you were gifted and translating those into tangible and precise insights and actions. It’s also a process of discarding what doesn’t land as it did during the journey. Sometimes, it’s about exploring new themes and topics you have never looked at before. In some cases, integration means facing dark or confusing aspects of the experience and finding your footing again.
Without a well-supported integration period, we can be left with unprocessed questions or challenges, a lack of clarity around our next steps, and not having the tools and practices to bridge the journey into lasting positive change.
The benefits of integration
When a person goes through an experience characterized by altered states and mystical qualities, the gifts to unpack can be deeply profound. While all experiences and benefits will vary greatly from person to person, here are some benefits of a rich and holistic integration process:
- Toward self: Increased integration of your personality; renewed sense of self-worth; relaxation of ego defences; increased self-acceptance; increased faith in personal creativity; increased optimism; increased capacity to welcome life in; increased vitality in the body; access to forgotten truths.
- Toward others: greater attunement to others; increased resiliency to environments; more compassion and love; healthier and relaxed relationships; increased connection to community; more celebration for others; ability to create and contribute to authentic community spaces.
- Toward life: changes in values and priorities; purpose in life; a sense of meaning; increased vocational commitment; loss of fear of death; appreciation for the whole of creation; deeper connection with nature; deeper connection with ancestral lineages; mindfulness and embodiment; a shift from “Me” to “We”; dissolving barriers between the mind, body, soul, and biosphere.
How can I integrate?
There are multiple ways to approach integration. What you prefer is a personal choice based on your personality, environment, support systems, and beliefs. However, we’ve found that most people desire to integrate through authentic and enriching relational fields.
This can mean working with a psychedelic guide, a wellness teacher, friends, family, or intentional community spaces. Safe spaces where you can show up authentically, be vulnerable, and be seen and heard without judgment are particularly potent agents of integration. In those spaces, we realize we are not that different from one another. We find commonalities we never knew existed. The more we interface with those community spaces, the more barriers we can break down. We begin to feel genuinely connected to ourselves and the community once again.
If you are working with a practitioner or a psychedelic support guide, they can serve as an excellent start to the integration process. They are generally familiar and intimate with your path to this point and how the experience was for you. They can serve as a bridge to the insights, support, and resources you need to get the most out of your journey.
And then there’s you, beautiful soul. Your inner healer already holds a lot of the wisdom you are seeking. Psychedelics, therapists, and the community are only there to unlock the divine nectar that already flows within you. Tools like journaling, meditating, going out in nature, and playing music are always available to access your innate integration abilities. Ultimately, integration starts and ends with you.
Every integration method you choose will, like the branches of your neurons, open even more integration pathways for you. See what works, and remember to experiment. Cultivate an open mind–as the months and years go by, you might be surprised by just how dramatically you can transform.
This is part 2 of our psychedelic integration 101 series. In part 1 we explored what is integration, why it’s so critical, and ways you can integrate. Let’s continue our journey…
How long does psychedelic integration take?
The shortest answer is: it depends and it could take a lifetime. We believe every moment is in service to integrating a powerful psychedelic experience into cosmic significance. To weave such profound insights into the material world requires that you apply them in every domain of life, from the personal to the collective. No one ever completes integration–it’s a responsibility you carry for the remainder of your time on earth.
Integration is a rabbit hole made out of many different layers of trauma, behaviour patterns, and embedded belief systems. To look at integration as an appetizer to a psychedelic session is to miss out on the main dish! The integration process is the ceremony–the ceremony of becoming who you truly are.
The oceanic depth of integration is why we strongly advocate for fewer psychedelics and more integration. This is a core pillar of our psychedelic wellness philosophy.
Slow over fast. Quality over quantity. Patience. Compassion. Breath. Integrate, integrate, integrate.
Where can psychedelic integration take place?
There are four main spaces where integration takes place:
- Internal: Within your logical mind, emotional intelligence, and subconscious processes.
- External: In the ways you interact with the physical world via your everyday actions and practices.
- Collective: When interacting with other people in your community and within your family.
- Spiritually: Within your ancestral lineages, your energetic field, and your higher self.
As you’ve noticed, each space offers an entirely different opportunity for your psychedelic experiences to be processed, reflected on, and acted on. What a world of potential! Every day really is a ceremony.
What are some psychedelic integration techniques?
At Nectara, we foster a holistic philosophy of integration we call psychedelic wellness. This framework of health and wellness starts with psychedelic experiences that offer transformative insights, which are then integrated into everyday life with the support of a diverse set of modalities and perspectives. Within that view, we advocate for fewer psychedelics and more integration focused on the mind, body, soul, and community.
Within that philosophy, we view every moment as a ceremony and grounds for integration. It’s nothing new, as wisdom traditions like Buddhism have long taught us to bring things back to the present moment.
Here are some of the integration practices and tools you can explore. Note that some of the methods can apply to more than one area.
- Internal: Journaling, inner child work, internal family systems, trauma resolution, meditation, decolonizing work
- External: Yoga, journaling, cooking, art therapy, ceremony, prayers, plant dietas, mindfulness, nutrition, writing, singing, land-based integration, physical exercise, breathwork, play
- Collective: Sharing circles, community spaces, relational healing, reiki, singing circles, walks in nature, peer support groups
- Spiritually: Ancestral healing, prayers, wisdom traditions, cultural heritage, silence
Find what works best for you and what lights you up the most. Integration often happens over many years, and as the path unfolds, new growth areas that demand a fresh perspective or practice will show up.
How do I choose my integration practices?
Choose your adventure. It will be different for everyone to find out what works and what doesn’t. There are hundreds of factors at play!
Here are a few of the factors that could help you determine how you’d like to integrate:
- Seasons: Our bodies and soul are attuned to the rhythms and energies of the planet’s seasons, and it’s beneficial to structure our routines around them to match our actions with where the energies are wanting to naturally flow. If we do things that are already happening around us and within us, we take the risk of being out of balance, which could deplete our overall energy levels. In some cases, if we notice we’re either overstretched or not energetic enough, we may need to balance things better with our food, our practices, and our psychedelic journeys.
For example, summer is a yang or active season, as it brings hot weather and more intense and outward energies. If we engage with a powerful psychedelic experience and also do a lot of hot yoga and cardio exercises, that is a lot of yang energy! Balancing with foods that bring us back into gentleness and replacing hot yoga with mindfulness meditation for example could be a more balanced approach.
Winter, in contrast, is more of a yin or softer season, which brings calm, peace, and a good time to go within ourselves. We tend to need more rest and have lower energy levels. In this situation, if we go too much into practices like meditation or yin yoga without also activating our inner fire or eating yang foods, we run the risk of being out balance with the energies of the season.
In all cases, the key is being attuned to what your body is telling you and being curious about the yin and yang elements of the world around you.
- Access: What and who is around you? In cities, for example, there might be dozens of classes, courses, or guides to help you with a myriad of integration modalities. In a rural area, not so much. There is always offerings found online in support spaces like Nectara.
What is your budget for support? You can usually find free or by donation offerings like psychedelic integration circles. On the pricier side there are numerous integration programs and support packages offered by professionals.
What is considered a safe space for you? Finding the right communities and practitioners that will make you feel safe is a key piece in the integration process.
- Body: The body is a wise soul, and we need to listen to it. What does your body need to feel balanced and healthy? Are you someone who moves a lot at work and want to balance it with more calming modalities like meditation or walks in nature? Or do you need more fire in your life with energetic embodiment practices like dancing? Everyone will be different here but a good starting point is to make a list of things that make your body feel nourished and others that don’t.
- Personality: What sparks your joy and creativity meter the most? Finding purpose and ways to express our soul’s desires is a key piece in finding the right practices for integration. When we’re in flow with what we’re doing, we are connecting with multiple dimensions of wellness. Practices like painting, singing, dancing, writing, or being in nature are modalities that often allow people to integrate and process their experiences.
- Culture: Reconnecting with your lineage and traditions can be a powerful vehicle for integration as it can help us find belonging and ancestral connections. What cultural practices are present in your family? Your community? New ones you would like to explore?
Writing down insights during and after your psychedelic experience is an easy and impactful way to anchor your integration process. We recommend buying a physical journal reserved only for your psychedelic experiences. Some people prefer digital journaling, but digital writing loses the immersive and creative quality of writing with a physical pen and paper.
One of the benefits of journaling is that you can refer back to teachings you gathered in the past. This is a great way to refresh your memory and notice gaps in what you have integrated and what remains to be examined.
Another benefit is that your journal becomes an effective tool for discerning which insights have remained constant and which ones have shifted over time. When an insight comes back more than once in your psychedelic experiences, it may contain more truth. Likewise, if conflicting teachings come up, it’s good to have a reference from the past to discern what is true and what is not.
Have fun with your journal! Doodling, colouring, and playing with your words can trigger the creative side of your brain and open up pathways that a more logical approach wouldn’t have access to.
Your journal is a sacred object. Treat it with reverence and care.
How to choose an integration specialist
Getting direct support from an experienced guide is one of the most effective ways to resource your integration process. Finding the right one, however, can be challenging, as there are a lot of choices out there. It’s essential to ask the right questions upfront to make sure it’s a fit.
How do you find the right fit? Here are some suggestions:
- List out the ideal version of a guide that would align perfectly with your current goals and personality.
- How do you feel around them? Even someone with tons of experience and an excellent reputation may not be a good fit. Working with someone you enjoy and feel safe around is a big step towards an effective partnership. Don’t base your decision solely on credentials.
- How much experience do they have?
- What kind of training have they received? Are they highly decorated psychotherapists? An underground practitioner with many years of experience? Just starting? What else have they done previous to their integration career?
- What’s their intake process like? Do they work with anyone, or are they selective?
- Has that person done a lot of their own shadow work? Dedication to their own healing path is a critical aspect of finding a good guide. Be aware of people who present themselves as having figured it all out.
- What skills and modalities do they have? Are they well-practiced in modalities you’ve been particularly curious about?
- Check their social media presence if they have one. What language do they use? What are their values? Political views? World views? Differences can be good, but some others might not be a fit for you.
- Ask people you trust for referrals. If you don’t know anyone, pay attention to client testimonials.
- Identify your budget capacity. Typically you’ll get more out of your budget and your process with longer-term arrangements. You’ll get to dive deeper, and your cost per hour will go down (integration guides prefer that option, too!).
The importance of community
We’ve often been brought up with the idea that we have to figure it all out ourselves. But unless we want to, we don’t have to do that anymore. We can let go of the old paradigm of the lone wolf and take some weight off our shoulders. How good would it feel to welcome in support and ask for it when we need it?
We like to say that people come for the medicine, but they stay for the community. So much richness is possible when we invite others into our integration process. Whether it’s working with guides, close friends, your local community, your partner, men’s or women’s groups, or affinity groups, whenever you share the process, you get an abundance of gifts back.
We believe it’s time to reframe the old “I got this” model to “WE got this.” Purpose-aligned communities and relationships are crucial. We are so much better when we are supported by others and supporting them. Giving is receiving, as they say.
The psychedelic experience can be a profoundly personal one. However, when we do the inner work, we’re also influencing and helping every person we interact with. We’re never doing the work alone and never just for ourselves. Integration is a collective effort where we are all mirrors of each other.
The more we walk our path and do the hard work, the clearer and more authentic we can become with others. This creates increasing harmonic resonance in all our relationships, leading to more openness to collaborate, support, and empathize with others.
Want to learn more about psychedelic integration? Check out our expert-led panel exploring the basics.