It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives.

Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds.

Black Elk

Sometimes opportunities come along that on the one hand seem totally outlandish but also offer a chance to grow and reframe old ways of thinking. My story is about a phase in my deconstruction journey which fits in this category: an experience embarked on which has changed me deeply.

I’m 62 years old and although of Canadian origin, have lived in the UK for the last 30 years. My husband and I both come from traditional evangelical upbringings and spent a good chunk of our married life involved in church life and leadership. About 7 years ago, however, we stopped attending church for a variety of reasons, and have been on a faith shifting journey ever since. In the last 2 years an opportunity arose to start meeting on zoom with my cousin and his wife, plus 2 other couples (also related to me, living in Canada, from similar church backgrounds), forming a support network for each other as we navigated our different phases of deconstructing faith. We read some books together and had long conversations about our changing world views. It was a safe space where we felt heard and understood, but there was also the desire to do more to help us move forward in our commitment to each other and our faith shifting.

It was at this time that my cousin proposed we do a psilocybin experience together. He had been doing some research and had come across Peg, a former pastor who through his deconstruction journey had connected deeply with indigenous people and their plant medicines. He is passionate about making others aware of the benefits that plant medicines can have in helping to reframe unhelpful ways of thinking and creating spaces where people can connect deeply in a new way.

All 8 of us in our group had reservations, but as we began to look into this opportunity with an open mind we were all impressed by the level of integrity that Peg and his wife displayed, by the research behind the science of plant medicine, and by the format of their model, which offers a 12 week preparation and integration course which supports the one day psilocybin experience. Also, I should add that their use of ‘magic mushrooms’ has been approved for therapeutic use in some settings in Canada, meaning that what we were contemplating was completely legal in that country.  

So, we all signed up, and in January started meeting weekly for 90 minutes on zoom. Each week we would be given a question to ponder before the meeting (such as I feel the most fear/vulnerability when… I feel the most authentic (in flow, safe, etc.) when…) and would each take turns sharing our answers. One of the most powerful aspects of these gatherings was the type of listening that Peg and his wife modelled, and that we all in time learned to do: an embodied listening that does not only hear the other’s words but also reflects the feelings that these words provoke in your own body. Coming from a background where so much of the ‘listening’ we had experienced was generally done with the intent of providing answers, advice or correction, this format resulted in all of us feeling heard, seen and supported in whatever we were sharing. We were able to be more and more open with each other, and to voice insecurities or fears which we may previously never have admitted to. About halfway through the preparation gatherings we had a breathwork experience, which is in itself a very powerful tool to help ‘set aside’ the ‘controlling/thinking mind’ and get in touch with new ways of perceiving ourselves and others.

As we approached the medicine day (which my husband and I travelled to Canada for) we were encouraged to think about the kind of issues that had been showing up for us during our weekly meetings, and to form an intentional focus for the psilocybin experience. For myself personally I have always struggled with feelings of inadequacy, coupled with often seeing myself on the outside of relational circles. My intention therefore became to see myself as ‘enough’ and as ‘loved and accepted’. This was reworked as the statement ‘I am abundance, I am safety, I am love, I am trust’.

The weekly meetings and intention setting all contributed to feeling ready and well prepared for our medicine day. Although we were in the same space together (and assisted by a number of facilitators who were there to care for us in any way needed) we all had very different experiences. For me the journey was incredibly profound and spiritual. I was surprised by this as my many years in evangelical churches (including some charismatic spaces) had never led to anything even remotely mystical. It was as if the mushroom (the one we used is called Golden Teacher) was opening up new ways of thinking and understanding for me (this affect of neuroplasticity is one of the well-studied and documented effects of psilocybin) and I was able to see myself in a completely different way.

I have never felt so loved.

I have never felt so connected to those around me.

I have never felt so strong.

There was a new freedom in my body (I spent at least half of the 5 hour journey dancing, again very uncharacteristic for me).

There was also a deep feelings of pain and compassion for our world.

I can honestly say that since my mushroom trip I am a different person. Although insecurities and sadnesses still show up, I have a new understanding of myself, a grounded-ness in my own enough-ness and in the love of others. I also have a wider window of tolerance for difficulties, a new appreciation for nature, a new tenderness of heart, and a new ‘super-power’ (I dance a lot to help me face difficult situations, or to alleviate my own sadness and frustration).

One of the hardest things post this experience has been not finding many spaces where I can talk to others about what I have been through. There is a fear of being misunderstood, of speaking about something sacred and amazing and meeting with shocked or indifferent reactions. My husband and I have both shared openly with our adult children, and they have listened to us with curiosity and acceptance. I have chosen to write about my journey here, in the Nomad Listener Stories, because I see this as a space where many of us are opening up to new ways of thinking and new practices. I never thought I would seek out a psychedelic experience, particularly as part of a faith journey. And yet here I am.

Carolyn

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  1. David May 23, 2024

    Thank you so much Carolyn for sharing this experience, it sounds as if you had a wonderful life changing experience.

  2. Imogen May 25, 2024

    Thank you Carolyn. I really appreciated reading about your experience, which was obviously so life giving. Very thought provoking.

  3. Brent Unrau May 25, 2024

    Thanks Carolyn for your honest and human sharing. So proud of you, the risks you are taking to engage more deeply and genuinely from your heart. I celebrate you and the transformations that are occurring in your life. These changes are real and noticeable.
    You captured so well this journey you are on.

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