The Magic of Mushrooms

by Nikki Mark

Hands holding bowl of dried mushrooms.

Okay, my friends! It’s time to stretch our minds and get a little crazy this Sunday morning as we talk about the healing powers of psychedelic therapy. 

Now, I know a lot of people are curious about this topic because out of all the alternative healing modalities I have written about in my healing toolkit, it’s definitely the one people inquire about the most.

But I also know some people believe (just like I used to) that hallucinogens—whether they be synthetic or plant-based—are addictive and dangerous. Others have told me they are a blasphemous violation of their religion.

No matter your current viewpoint, psychedelic therapy is undoubtedly entering the mainstream. (And I’m here to tell you, it’s for good reason.)

In the next two or three years, some form of it is expected to be FDA-approved.

PBS even did a special on it last year titled Can Psychedelics Cure? – and here’s their summary:

“Hallucinogenic drugs–popularly called psychedelics–have been used by human societies for thousands of years. Today, scientists are taking a second look at many of these mind-altering substances–both natural and synthetic–and discovering that they can have profoundly positive clinical impacts, helping patients struggling with a range of afflictions from addiction to depression and PTSD.”

I was first introduced to Magic Mushrooms about three months after Tommy passed. I was drowning in grief and suffering from PTSD. My trauma was on a constant loop in my brain, and it didn’t matter whether I was awake or asleep—I could not take a break from it.

So, at the suggestion of just about everyone I knew, I turned to talk therapy for help. But after one session, I left feeling more helpless than when I arrived. Although I knew traditional talk therapy was helpful to others, I decided it would not work fast enough for me. 

So, I began considering alternatives.

I considered getting a prescription to take the edge off my suffering. But given the rising statistics of depression and anxiety, I didn’t have faith that this would address the root cause of my pain. I also didn’t want to be reliant on medication for the rest of my life.

So, when a friend reached out and told me Magic Mushrooms were a type of psychedelic therapy that had dramatically helped her make sense of her life after battling a nasty form cancer, I decided to give it a try.

This was not at all in my comfort zone.

I don’t do drugs. I don’t smoke. I hardly drink more than a single glass of wine a month. And I do not self-medicate beyond a couple Tylenol twice a year.

But my friend introduced me to the psychologist who administered the plant medicine to her. She explained to me that she had been initiated into the healing traditions of her family’s Peruvian lineage and successfully helped patients all around the world overcome depression, PTSD, and grief with the help of Psilocybin, the hallucinogen found in Magic Mushrooms.

She also explained that Magic Mushrooms have been used around the world for thousands of years for medicinal purposes, as well as to aid in spiritual exploration and personal development. The Ancient Egyptians called it “The food of the gods.” The Aztecs and Mayans believed they helped bring inner peace and a sense of oneness with nature and the gods. 

Given that two of the most common healing modalities were not good options for me (talk therapy + prescription meds), I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and try an ancient one.

So, a few weeks later, I showed up at the psychologist’s home office for my very first “journey” into the unknown.

From the minute I walked in, I knew this would not be a party. We had serious work to do, and she was prepared.

She led me toward her living room, where large mattresses and fluffy pillows awaited my arrival. As I covered myself with a soft blanket and tried to relax, I glanced around the room and saw sparkling crystals, flickering candles, and colorful artwork filling up her bookshelves. I instantly felt comforted by all of it.    

After making our introductions, she filled me in on what I could expect.

The medicine would last at least six hours and take me through the night. I would sleep there. And in the morning, we would take as much time as we needed to make sense of my experience and integrate it into my life. 

Now that the logistics had been addressed, she handed me the magic plant in the form of a chocolate, and she delivered a non-religious prayer along with it.

Then she asked me to clearly state my intentions for the medicine.

“I want to connect with Tommy’s spirit, understand why he had to leave, and learn how to heal my heart,” I told the medicine. The suffering I felt was unbearable, and I could not live this way.

She reminded me that I had all the tools I needed to heal myself. The medicine would simply activate them. Her intention was to hold space and support me through it. 

Without any further questions, I ate my chocolate, drank lots of water, and proceeded to get intimate with the darkest corners of my loss.

“Start at the beginning,” the psychologist said, as shamanic-type music gently played in the background.          

I proceeded to tell her everything. I described Tommy. I broke down my loss. And as the medicine gently silenced my mind and opened my heart, I allowed myself to feel all the love Tommy brought to my life, instead of all the pain I felt from him leaving.

Then when the clock struck midnight, I was told to close my eyes, lie back, and allow the medicine to further guide me. I was left alone the rest of the night.

Soon, the medicine started guiding me toward my pain. The closer I got to it, the less angry it seemed and the more loving it felt. The pain wanted to help me, the medicine told me, and hearing what it had to say was the fastest way to make it go away. I inched forward, weeping.

That’s when a message I’ll never forget dropped in through the crown of my head with no audible sound at all.

“We are more powerful this way, Mom,” I heard Tommy say. “With me here and you there, we can do more.”

As I felt his warm energy dance around me, I understood that we had work to do together, and this news gave me hope that we would continue learning and growing together despite being in different forms and different worlds. 

“Be who you are, mom,” he further advised me, setting forth a future of self-discovery and supporting what authors Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal both have to say in their book Stealing Fire:

“By periodically losing our minds, we stand a better chance of finding ourselves.”

Other messages I received that night were so simple, so clear, and so full of love that when I woke up the following morning, I felt like the circuits in my brain had been rerouted and found much healthier ways to connect.

Science says that hallucinogens like Psilocybin switch off the prefrontal cortex of the brain and give our overly busy “thinking minds” a much-needed break from the repetitive stories we tell ourselves. When that happens, we are able to examine life and view our circumstances with fresh eyes.

This is what I believe it did for me that night. It interrupted the story of trauma my brain had locked into and jumpstarted my healing journey.

I have since experienced psychedelic therapy a handful of times over the past six years. Each session has been different, but no less profound. Somehow, the plant medicine always seems to know what my soul needs (even when I don’t).

When administered safely by a trusted facilitator, approved by a doctor, and taken with the highest intentions of healing and transformation, I have found that Magic Mushrooms can be an extremely powerful healing modality for our hearts and a much-needed gift to our souls.

In fact, a growing group of psychologists, trained facilitators, and patients treated with Magic Mushrooms say the benefits of one psychedelic therapy session are equivalent to multiple years of weekly talk therapy.

Still, it is not yet legal in many states and countries—so for those who want to try it, it may take some networking and travel.

The important thing to remember if this alternative healing modality speaks to you is that we are meant to integrate the sacred experience to better our world here, not escape it.  

As author and alternative therapist Shaman Durek says in his book Spirit Hacking, “Plant medicine exists to show us what is possible when we engage beyond the false limitations that we have allowed to shape our reality. But plant medicine is only an entryway; it is not a place to hang out.” 

Now, I’m not advocating that you just go and pop a bunch of Magic Mushrooms willy-nilly. But if you’re suffering from trauma, or if you are feeling deeply lost or stuck in your healing, finding a trusted practitioner to guide you on a “medicine journey” could help you make a quantum leap, as it did for me.

P.S. Want to learn more? CLICK HERE to watch John Oliver’s deep dive into psychedelic therapy on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” — now available for free on YouTube. It’s informative, educational, and of course, funny!

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Ebook on meditation and mushrooms displayed on tablet.

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