The Importance of Prep and Integration
At the Congregation for Sacred Practices, we hold preparation and integration as significant parts of ensuring a safe, meaningful, and transformative experience for our members. Indigenous cultures have been using plant medicines for centuries for healing, spiritual exploration, and growth. Preparation and Integration are contemporary additions, where we bridge indigenous wisdom with western psychotherapy. It is our belief that proper preparation and integration enhances the benefits of these experiences while minimizing potential risks and harms.
Let’s begin with the importance of preparation. When signing up for a group ceremony or working one on one with a Minister, we will ask you to fill out a rigorous intake form that goes over your mental, physical, medical, and spiritual background. Sacraments can have interactions with certain medications or medical conditions, so it is best to check with your physician to make sure you have the green light to move forward. Your Minister will walk you through any dietary restrictions leading up to the ceremony as well as educate you on what you can expect throughout the entirety of the experience.
Together you will work on setting your intentions that will act as your North Star, pointing you in the direction that you would like your sacred journey to unfold. While it is always a good idea to have an intention, it is equally as important to be able to let that intention go and surrender to what the conversation your and the sacrament are having. Being in the right mindset for this work is important. Your Minister will help ground you in your intention and offer advice on how to develop your own relationship with these powerful teachers. We suggest praying to the sacrament leading up to your ceremony, which helps you to start developing that relationship while also preparing you both mentally and spiritually.
In the book Allies for Awakening, Ralph Metzner suggests that participants should spend as much time on prep and integration as they would within the ceremony. So that means if you plan to spend five to seven hours in a mushroom ceremony, you should plan to spend five to seven hours doing preparation and at least five to seven hours working to integrate it afterwards. Coming back into the ordinary consciousness after a sacred medicine ceremony can be disorienting at times. Integration involves remembering, making meaning, and applying the insights, emotions, and experiences from the ceremony. This reflection helps members translate their experiences into their daily lives.
Ceremonies can bring up deeply buried emotions, traumas, or unresolved issues from the past. Being held in a deeply loving and supportive container with your Minister can provide a safe space to discuss and navigate these experiences, promoting emotional healing and growth. Furthermore, sharing your experiences with a supportive community can help members feel understood and less isolated. This is why the Congregation offers monthly Integration circles which provide a space to discuss experiences, challenges, and growth with others who have undergone similar journeys.
We’d like to leave you with some helpful tools that may aid in your integration outside of the ceremonial container:
Journaling and Artistic Expression:
- Write in a journal to capture your thoughts, emotions, and visions during and after your ceremony. Use this as a tool for self-reflection and tracking your progress.
- Create art, whether it’s painting, drawing, sculpture, or digital art, to visually represent the insights and feelings you experienced. Art can serve as a powerful way to externalize and process your internal world.
Mindfulness and Meditation:
- Develop a daily mindfulness or meditation practice to maintain a connection to the insights you gained. Meditation can help you stay grounded, present, and connected to your intentions and lessons.
- Spend time in nature to deepen your connection with the world around you. Use the experience to cultivate a sense of awe and wonder, and to reflect on the interconnectedness of all life.
- Pay attention to your dreams after the medicine ceremony. Dreams can provide additional insights or symbols related to your journey that might not be immediately apparent.
Movement and Dance:
- Engage in movement practices like yoga, dance, or tai chi to physically express the energy and emotions from your experience. This can help you release any residual tension and integrate the experience on a somatic level.
- Create your own personal rituals or ceremonies that allow you to revisit and reconnect with the lessons of your ceremony. This could involve meditation, visualization, or other practices.
Remember that integration is an ongoing, creative process, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The key is to find activities and practices that resonate with you personally and help you embody the insights gained from your sacred ceremony in a meaningful way. It’s also a good idea to seek guidance from your Minister, therapist, or integration circles to ensure you’re approaching integration in a healthy and supportive manner. Most importantly, remember to be kind and gentle to yourself as this work continues to unfold and you begin showing up differently in the world.