The story of why I stand behind the use of plant medicines for healing..
I remember a time when life had not made that much sense. I had gotten caught in the cycle of addiction, and I could not get out of it and the pain and suffering I had stacked up for myself and my family. It seemed beyond repair. I remember considering that it would be better for all concerned if I died; suicide felt like an option that would solve many problems.
Luckily, I was sent out to visit my father and his family in Oregon, where my journey with plant medicines began. In October 2004, I was blessed to be welcomed into an all-night tipi meeting with the Native American Church (NAC).
NAC meetings are all-night prayer ceremonies that use the plant medicine peyote. The people who attended the meeting came from far and wide to pray for my life. I had no idea at the time what was being done for me. It was the beginning of everything that I am today…
The journey that night was really hard. I’d never done anything quite so difficult in my life. However, at some point in the night, I was connected to something greater than myself, which inspired me to start the road to healing. After that, I got involved with the Lakota tradition and made yearly visits to Oregon to participate in their ceremonies. These practices do not use plant medicines; they are primarily about fasting in prayer. My healer advised me to find a spiritual way of life in the UK, so I began practising yoga.
After a while, I trained in the healing art of Reiki and then began to learn how to teach Kundalini Yoga. I went on to learn how to be a Yoga Therapist, Supervisor, Interfaith Minister, and Neurosomatic Psychotherapist. After not ingesting a plant medicine for over ten years, I decided that the time had come to take magic mushrooms. One of my community sourced them from the hills where I grew up, and we took them together on a silent walk. I saw the song of the Earth and realised that if people could connect to this, they would never feel alone.
I was guided to seek out Ayahuasca.
I arrived at the medicines successful in my career. I had written teacher training programmes, worked as a supervisor and a Yoga Therapist. I had found some kind of healing and a sense of balance in my nuclear family and close relationships. And yet there was still so much more in my system that needed to heal. Through the journey with Ayahuasca, I found myself in programmes and patterns that conflicted with themselves.
There were still parts of me that needed to feel accepted.
Parts of me that didn’t feel enough.
Parts of me that needed recognition.
Parts of me didn’t want to recognise that relationships within my family weren’t okay.
Many parts of me wanted to hide.
Parts of me that still existed in guilt
Parts holding the locked-in shame that I’d never allowed myself to feel.
But there were so many parts of me that were suffering.
I was able to mask that they were okay.
I learned to compartmentalise and hide them to avoid feeling what was really there.
So many memories were lost to the trauma my body was holding.
And I’m sad that my spiritual yoga practice helped me avoid what was lurking in my shadow.
And so, when I sought therapeutic training in Ayahuasca, I was drawn to work with plant medicines to
facilitate people feeling connected to something greater than themselves. And yet I was actually being
directed to my own healing journey, to the parts I hadn’t managed to reach in the ceremonies, yoga, and prayer.
And now, I continue to find ways to integrate and stand by myself. Many changes have come about due to my journey, and while they have not all been comfortable, they have brought me peace. I have a barometer that tells me when I’m outside of myself, which is really helpful. It means that I can serve Spirit clearly. It becomes more about what needs to be done before I am released back to Spirit.
And that’s really about all I want to say about that.
So, after eighteen years of working on my own healing, the plants taught me that places in me are hard to reach. And over the fifteen years of working with others, I have seen the same thing. It would have never entered my head to work with plant medicines until I met with psilocybin. In fact, I would go as far as to say that I did not like the effect of psychedelics. However, over the six years, I’ve been actively involved in the plant medicine movement. I’ve seen just how much transformation occurs with these therapeutic interactions.
I have seen hundreds of people heal with plant medicines. Nothing is ever the same for them; their systems are irrevocably changed forever. I’ve seen people heal trauma in their bodies and minds. I’ve seen them shift early life conditioning, let go of the past, and touch into grief that hasn’t been accessible to them. Download a range of emotions that they’ve never had before. I’ve seen people find their way into their bodies and find that place of safety that they’ve never had before.
And so much more.
And so, I’ve come to a place where I’m incredibly supportive, loyal, and grateful to the medicines for their work for humanity. Part of the reason they are so powerful is the neurological changes that inhibit networks that hold our brains in their predictable patterns. Once this is removed, they can get beneath the habitual thinking that can loop around in circles. And often, the problem lies somewhere other than what people think is the root of their suffering.
There is often something underneath that they just can’t get to. I’ve seen people for this kind of work that had been in therapy for years. And it hasn’t helped. For example, one of my clients arrived with anxiety and told me that their therapy sessions often focussed on anxiety. They thought their fears were about performance at work. But in actual fact, they were about something completely different. And once they could rectify this in themselves, their whole system shifted. They integrated more of themselves than had ever been before. So, when they left the therapy, there was more of them to go with, which is why I love this work.
This is not to say that I believe plant medicines can replace more traditional therapies. Sometimes, a longer-term psychotherapeutic relationship is necessary for systems to attune to another human being. Plant medicines can definitely help in this case. But they can’t replace the time needed in a stable relationship with another human being.
In October 2022, almost eighteen years to the day after my initial consultation with peyote. I decided to take the risk of stepping out and supporting plant medicines in the way I am now. In a way, I’m putting myself on the line to do this; as the founder of The Pilamaya Centre for Integration Psychotherapy, I am very much located within the traditional therapeutic establishment. I also have students and graduates who rely on my reputation as a responsible practitioner. There are opposing camps within the therapeutic world, some supporting the use of plant medicines and others not. I have already been challenged for my interest in this work. And yet still, I have been called to openly support the use of plant medicines. They have also taught me to stand for what I believe in. Therefore, I am taking people to places where they can experience the magic of the plants and Integration Psychotherapy with me.
In 2023, I will be offering monthly online Integration Psychotherapy Sessions for people looking for
professional support and a like-minded community. I will also be providing CPD training for therapists and coaches to work effectively with people who wish to heal through psychedelics.
Resting In Spirit