A GUIDE TO HEALING WITH ‘SHROOMS

With her book, A Wild Kindness: A Psilocybin Odyssey, author Bett Williams chronicles her seven-year journey working with psilocybin mushrooms in New Mexico. The below excerpt gives a window into the healing portal this opened in her life …

 

IT BEGAN WITH a solitary trip by the fire three days later, with a cautious, less-than-three-gram dose. When there’s nothing to lose, there’s not a lot to worry about. It was easy to trust a mushroom—to trust anything outside myself and the twisted will that had landed me in this desperate clearing. I placed a small mound of tobacco at the base of a candle, a common offering I’d been practicing since I was a teenager, taught to me by herbalists and indigenous ceremonialists. I burned copal and flat cedar. Lying down on the couch under a wool blanket, I waited.

“You need to stop seeing yourself as a sick person,” the mushrooms said. They spoke to me like this, in fully formed sentences heard internally, like a memory. “In your female form you are the quintessential bedridden Victorian lady on retreat.”

“Yes, it’s true!” I replied. “I do come from a long line of sick women. My mother had polio, tuberculosis, cancer, diphtheria, and Graves’ disease. My grandmother had tuberculosis and a morphine addiction. Sickness is how I locate my ancestry.”

“Oh, I am so very sick!” the mushrooms echoed, mocking me.

“You don’t care that I’m sick?”

“We’re just waiting for you to stop pretending to be sick.”

“But I actually am kind of sick.”

“Take as long as you like.”

I wasn’t sick, the mushrooms said, but the Trader Joe’s frozen Greek yogurt I’d been eating daily was causing inflammation in my hips. What was going on in my hips was jacking my neck up and this somatic traffic jam was making me depressed and lethargic. The damage could be remedied with ginger.

“Ginger?”

“Yes, ginger. Will you let us show you?”

An intricate, multi-dimensional golden temple with a Moroccan silhouette arose in front of me. It was vast and bejeweled, with an empty throne at its center. As a lover of minimalist architecture, I find myself resentful of having to describe its attributes. I’ll just say it whacked me with its beauty so thoroughly I was hyperventilating from its splendor. The mushrooms must like me for such a thing to arise. Maybe I’m good at this, I thought.

Personal preferences were tossed in, like my favorite shade of aqua found only in paint made from Smithsonite and contrasting garnet reds and lapis blues set side by side, emanating a lovely resonant sound. And gold, tons and tons of gold, in chunks and flowing strands and the thinnest of threads, gold forming arches and furniture, walls and handrails, cups and hairbrushes.

“This is ginger? This palace?”

“Yes, and it will help you.”

“Ground or fresh?”

“Fresh is best. Keep it simple.”

The mushrooms speak to me, but I don’t hear words like you’d hear from another person talking. It’s as if language arises in my own body, though it’s nothing I’d come up with on my own. Sometimes I am aware of fully formed sentences. Other times, whole systems of knowledge present themselves, devoid of any coherent words at all.

The mushrooms told me addiction starts in the feet, for instance. Your position in the tribe has been injured. An old sheepherder set my leg on the ground. I was a foal, newly born, and my front left leg resisted contact with the earth. He stroked it until I allowed my hoof to lightly touch down. The earth’s subtle electricity flowed into the ley lines of my calf, up into my hips and my neck and shoulders, giving them relief from some long-held, useless question mark.

“You are alive now. There.”

“Thank you, sir. But I am kind of crippled.”

“Get into that loop as long as you like. But really?”

“Okay, I’m not crippled. I’m just a little bit sick.”

“Come as you are. But you’re not sick, just saying.”

“But what am I supposed to do in a healing ceremony if I’m not sick?”

I’m now living in the mushroom’s wordless answer to this question, continually.

///

I learned how to literally suck the sickness out of my body and spit it out. I was given poses—mouth wide open, tongue out, eyes rolled all the way up into the skull. This is how one’s own skull becomes that of an ancestor, ready for purification. Mushrooms showed me the resentments to which I was clinging and helped me to let them go. Sometimes I couldn’t let them go and I stewed in rage and self-loathing, observing its contours with equanimity, knowing these hard emotions are a thing shared by all people. Exploring these realms of discomfort and psychic pain, I built a storehouse of compassion for myself and all of us pitiful human beings.

There were times when I landed in a gray in-between, kin to a world of cheap plastic figurines and urban street grease, where random fractal gargoyles of childhood television shows visited only to transmit the essence of mediocrity itself into my tender consciousness. This never scared me. I figured such dislocation was one of three things: a psychic detox, bad digestion, or perhaps I really was that two-dimensional and mediocre, and I had just succeeded at being in denial. Whatever situations arose, I approached them with a strong work ethic that was often notably absent in my real life.

Unwanted images and language forms—usually pop culture detritus, unwritten tweets, random shapes, and creepy critters—always dissipated after I gave them proper acknowledgment, offered some tobacco, and calmly set my attention elsewhere. I attribute the ability to do this to dosage. I always did roughly three grams. With this dosage, a sense of ego still remains. You can steer your own ship. Over seven or eight grams, you might become the actual ship. A very high-dose mushroom trip comes with its own teachings. I’m not uncurious, but thus far, the mushrooms have not guided me to ingest a dose higher than seven grams.

In his essay, “The Mushrooms of Language,” Henry Munn explains that in the Mazatec worldview, it is important that a practitioner maintain “an ethical relationship with the real.” I have taken this as mantra to live by. It’s one that is likely dose-specific. Munn claims the Mazatec did not experience many hallucinations at all during ceremony, that their experiences were mostly somatic and linguistic. That is how it was for me, back when I kept it simple.

“The little children are to be eaten in pairs,” María Sabina said. “They are holy and a sacrament. Don’t do them in the daytime, they make you crazy. Only do them at night.” Okay, sometimes I did them in the daytime, but I tried to do them only at night. Staying close to this protocol served me well in the early days. It kept me humble.

///

Excerpted from A Wild Kindness: A Psilocybin Odyssey by Bett Williams, out now with Dottir Books.

SARAH DURHAM WILSON: CONVERSATIONS WITH MY COVEN

With The Coven Conversations, Sarah Durham Wilson wants to help women heal themselves – so they can heal the world. She shares her vision for a women’s circle with serious purpose…

sarah durham wilson of doitgirl on the coven conversations featured on the numinous

“Most women I know are Priestesses and healers…We are, all of us, sisters of a mysterious order.” – Marianne Williamson

Do It Girl founder and former music journalist Sarah Durham Wilson has chosen this killer quote to preface the intention of The Coven Conversations, a series of 13 live interviews with the women she calls “Coven.”

On a mission to help women heal themselves, so they in turn can help to heal the world, Sarah has hand-selected a tribe of 24 miracle-making modern mystics to take part in the series, which will take place Tuesday nights – launching 7/7.

“Sharing our stories as women is what helps us heal, and I wanted to spotlight the sisters who have held and inspired me on my path, and who have also undergone transformation – change of form – to become their true selves,” she says.

As for the title; “the word Coven means Gathering of Witches, while “witch” simply means healer, or wise woman. In fact, Covens were once banned because the power of women circling together with common intentions proved too powerful.”

Which we think you’ll agree, pretty much sets the scene for some serious bad-assery…

Available to subscribers via Sarah’s site, you can sign up and find out more about the series and the speakers at www.doitgirl.com – while below, Sarah shares how to stage a Coven conversation of your own…

sarah durham wilson of doitgirl on the coven conversations featured on the numinous

What’s the ideal moon phase for a powow with your Coven?
I tend to believe Full Moons are the best times to convene in coven. They’re a time of deep celebration, honoring, illumination, and fullness. Conversely, I’ve found New Moon Ceremonies call in our shadow to be seen, which is super important of course, just not for the novice priestess. But then I’ve always learned the hard way…

How do you prep the space?
Well the Coven Conversations are virtual, but if we were in physical coven, we’d prepare the space like we would for a moon circle – which it is, women gathering with healing intention, holding space for the self, the other, and the Goddess. For me, ritual is all about intention. You can prep everything “perfectly” and by the book, but if your intention isn’t there, it won’t be imparted to your Self/the Divine. So you could actually do nothing “physical”, but set the intention of sacred space and healing, and you’d be doing it perfectly.

Still, saging yourself and the area where you’re enacting ritual is always good to clear the energy. Lighting candles, because Spirit loves light, is a beautiful invitation, while calling in the elements (North/Earth, East/Air, South/Fire, West/Water, Spirit/Self), and even casting a circle, all aid in creating space for the ritual.

We would begin by breathing, to bring us into our body, before saying an incantation to the Goddess/God, or Spirit, to bring us into our divinity and to bring Her into the space. When you’re holding a party for the most elegant guest in the Cosmos, it’s about setting a place at the table for the Goddess and simply inviting her in.

sarah durham wilson of doitgirl on the coven conversations featured on the numinous

What’s on the menu?
I’ve learned not to imbibe in “spirits” before a spiritual ritual! But afterward, women like to pass wine or sparkling juice, and bless chocolate and break it together. Eating the chocolate is like taking in that blessing into the body. The Goddess also loves a celebration. Joy is her perfume and she douses herself in it generously. As the Hopi Prophecy says, “the time of the lone wolf is over, gather yourselves.” And I believe this means all rituals now should be enacted in a manner of celebration.

Any herbal enhancements?
Incense. I like Cedar these days, because it smells like my family’s cabin on Martha’s Vineyard, and currently based in Taos, New Mexico, I feel so far away.

Are men ever allowed?
While every woman and man needs to heal their feminine energy and bring it forth on the planet, presently, I am focussed on working with women. We’re healing the body of the feminine to heal the body of the earth – and when sharing stories of the feminine in sacred circles, women, at this point, tend to feel safer with a female-only audience. But stay tuned!

The most pressing topic of conversation for you and your coven today?
Mary Magdalene teaches: “My story is your story,” and that’s sort of the premise for the Coven Conversations. That beneath the character names and places and timing of events, we share similar stories of shame, exilement, self abandonment, fear, healing, and love. The purpose of sharing your story is that it not only heals you, but those who hear it. This communion, of coming into union with your sisters and recognizing yourself in their stories, brings us into wholeness, and oneness, moves us from isolation into community, and from a feeling of being alone to the understanding that we are all one.

Who’s in your Coven, and what does the word mean to you? Connect with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and share your stories of sisterhood

YOGI VEGAN LEZ: RELATIONSHIPS AND THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

Meet Yogi Vegan Lez, a.k.a. Alexandra Roxo and her girlfriend Orian Barki. In the first chapter of a new series on the challenges of conscious modern coupling, is a road trip actually the best kind of couples therapy?

“Totally worth four breakups in an eight-hour drive”

Just like doing a cleanse together as a couple sounded like a great idea, so did taking a road trip. However, deciding what juice to buy and dribbling pulled oil down your t-shirt in front of your brand new girlfriend is nothing in comparison to being lost in the mountains of Colorado and encountering two large creepy bikers who “reallllllly want to take a photo with you” because “someone” didn’t listen to Siri.

Road trips are the real deal. Sure we live together in Brooklyn, but that’s different. Yoga down the street. $11 green juice by delivery. And our own little love den to nest in. But eight months in and our relationship could survive Mexican food from roadside vendors and lumpy beds, right?

The conversation came up when Orian and I found ourselves in New Mexico, working on a movie called Bare that my company Purple Milk is producing. Orian arrived from New York at the end of the most stressful week in my life, in which both of the lead actors pulled out and we had to recast it , all the while maintaining fake smiles to make all the other crew members not bail off.

I needed a time out, so the next day and we set off in a tiny rental with some Spiderman sleeping bags from the associate producer’s kids, blankets “borrowed” from our Air B ‘n B, and a bag of organic groceries – raw chocolate, kale chips, and Biodynamic red wine a-plenty. And then we headed in the direction of the nearest hot springs… okay spa. Come on, you gotta start a road trip to get back to nature somewhere!

When we arrived, our room was basically in the kitchen with a view of the dumpster. Fuck. I marched right back to reception with my fists in fighting position. But turns out they were booked solid with couples in their 50’s, most of whom were currently asleep in the “romantic” rooms that I had planned on having sex in that night. Orian decided to take over before I snapped and let my “lower self” take over.

By now I was openly sobbing in a leather armchair in a reception painted with “native art” – aka bows and arrows – surrounded by two children playing Angry Birds on an iPad and an elderly German couple sitting silently in flip flops and robes waiting for a shiatsu or something. They casually observed my tears as if I was the lobby fountain, and turned back to their spa menus.

The sweet manager finally offered us an equally impressive room with a bed practically in the center of the restaurant, but with an hour in a private hot spring, a bottle of wine and a whopping discount thrown in. Orian wanted to leave and go look for another place to stay, but I was set on a day of relaxation in the hot spring. I rested my weary my head on her shoulder and told her we had to make the best of it. She agreed. And instead of being grossed out by the overpriced airplane food in the restaurant and the hairy men ogling us in the hot tubs, we drank our wine under the stars and made the best of the bed.

“Apparently we have sensitive skin”

We drove away from the spa the next day with our faces red and splotchy from the free flowing sulphuric smelling mud we’d smeared all over ourselves before baking in the sun. I looked like a burn victim. It was only then I remembered I’d been using Retinol cream because I’m terrified of wrinkles and my Brazilian family swears by it (they also swear by plastic surgery, but whatever) and wasn’t supposed to go in the sun. I began to imagine my face peeling off a la Goldie Hawn in “Death Becomes Her,” pulled my oversized hat over my face and hid.

As we drove through southern Colorado, total silence descended on the car and paranoia began to set in. For some reason, we weren’t connecting. Our only conversation in hours had been a heated debate about google maps. Spiritually I look at things as effort vs. struggle – and so far, this was feeling like a lot of struggle. What happened to us having a blast doing everything together, from buying toothpaste to cleaning the toilet? Were those magic times over already?

Since we’d spent the past month apart, I chalked it up to the fact we needed some time for our energy to “sync” as a couple and tried to breathe despite the by now overwhelming anxiety and dry mouth. Tents, stars, and the enforced isolation camping allows would haaaave to bond us back together.

Now, I’m not new to camping. As a kid we couldn’t afford vacations and went camping one week every summer – my mom sometimes even brought the TV. As a teen I camped under a tarp in the Oregon woods for a week and foraged for berries at witch camp. And as a post-college “seeker,” I shit in a trough at a Rainbow Gathering next to rows of hippies with dreads and slept surrounded by people screaming from too many drugs in the wilds of West Virginia.

You get the picture – I’m no newbie to roughing it. But it was only as we neared Monument Valley where we planned to pitch up the next night that I realized I’d brought three pairs of platforms for the entire trip in lieu of any sensible footwear (I blame my overcrowded stress den of a mind when I was packing). So though Orian was dying to get camping already, we made a (emotionally fraught) decision: a well-choreographed stop-off at enemy no.1, Wal Mart.

As she’s from Israel and has only lived in the US for a year, spending most of her time in Brooklyn buying overpriced Ann Taylor linen from Polish vintage stores, Orian has never been to Wal Mart. And so I tried to warn her. “Look we go in. I get the imitation Keds. You grab the cooler. Out in 20, okay?” “Copy!” she relied, like the Israeli soldier she narrowly escaped becoming.

One and a half hours and $112.00 later we left, defeated, with six bags of crap. I sat in the car with my head in my hands, contemplating what had just happened as Orian insisted; “But we neeeeeeded the pink pepper spray, two glow in the dark t-shirts, an American flag bikini, six jugs of water just in case, and a copy of US weekly. We really did.” I got extremely annoyed in this moment and felt my skin begin to crawl, but told myself to calm the fuck down. And on we marched.

“Everything looks better in the photos”

We arrived to Monument Valley as the sun was beginning to set and decided on our camping spot, naturally choosing the one furthest from the trail so we could walk around in our underwear in peace. Our quest for solitude meant by the time we’d hiked our groceries, tent, firewood, camping chairs, tent, cooler, and our Wal Mart haul, the sun was nearly down. I decided to get our tent up as fast as I could, in which I am well practiced.

And maybe it was the drive, the trauma with the mud, or perhaps the lack of greens in my current diet? But I just couldn’t work it out. Which is when Orian stepped up to the plate and nailed it like an angel in a one-piece white American Apparel swimsuit. It was beautiful to watch. And as we drank our wine and watched the sun go down, it felt like things were finally beginning to gel.

I realized that this whole trip, being forced to make decisions about things like which non-organic snacks to buy had left Orian and I feeling like strangers. And our differing road trip priorities were distracting us from the point – the love we feel for each other. It’s rare for any couple to have time away from our obligations and responsibilities, and we needed to remember to just enjoy each other, regardless of the circumstances.

And as much as a week in Cabo or Tulum would have been more like the Valium my soul really needed, absorbing the epic beauty of Monument Valley I realized there’s a reason couples go on these quests together. Who wants a quick fix when it’s the road less travelled that brings growth? Trying three times to put a tent up together can be bonding. Really. Same for being forced to eat tacos made with GM corn from roadside vendors until the flatulence is just white noise.

“Even arguing about google maps can be bonding when it comes from the heart”

People go to couples therapy to confront their differences (like why the hell do you leave your shoes right outside the tent where I trip on them every day?) So here’s a tip for saving a shit-tonne of money. TAKE A ROAD TRIP. Get annoyed when your partner goes 60 mph or when they aren’t paying attention to google maps and miss the turn-off right when there’s no other turn off for like 100 miles. GO THERE. Don’t be afraid to let your girlfriend see you cry in public in at least three places in an attempt to get your way. Talk about a lesson in acceptance.

NEXT UP ON Yogi Vegan Lez: Navigating times of celibacy for ceremony….

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