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People often have questions about what it’s like to participate in a group psilocybin retreat. For those who are new to psychedelics, or for those who have only experienced them alone or casually with friends, it’s understandable that the group aspect - particularly the group journey itself - would be an area of curiosity or hesitation. So we’d like to help paint that picture and share our perspective on why we see it having such a profound impact on people.


After reflecting on this topic you might still feel drawn to a different type of experience, and that’s great. There are many paths in this space, and what’s most important is that you choose what feels right for you.

First, the 'why'...

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Misty Woodland
Forest Road_edited_edited_edited_edited.

But what does it actually look like to participate in a group psilocybin journey?

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Misty Forest


“Healing happens in the presence of an empathetic witness.”


- Gabor Mate

First, the 'why'...


A solo experience with psilocybin can certainly be powerful, but when this experience is shared with others in a retreat setting there’s an expansion and deepening that occurs. The retreat creates a space for us to slow down, open, and attune to ourselves. And the presence of the other participants - who also come to slow down, open, and attune - creates a group container, a sense of being held by something larger than yourself. 


This container allows us to hold and express emotions that have been too big to hold or too hard to look at on our own. And this goes for all emotions, both heavy and light. It allows us to also experience deeper senses of awe and contentment and to laugh harder than we’ve laughed in a long, long time. 


While people are invited to be open and vulnerable, there is no pressure toward this. In fact, a foundational value in the entire retreat experience is that you feel empowered to have agency, to share what you want to share, to be how you want to be. 


Some people come to the retreat to heal deep wounds, others may be seeking a sense of oneness or connection. For others it may be about creativity, the exploration of consciousness, or spirituality. The mix of intentions, personalities, and journey experiences within the group are like ingredients of soup, each coming together to become a nourishment wholly beyond the sum of its parts. 


Most people come to this experience, at least in part, to heal a wound or explore some sort of inner experience that feels challenging. A solo psychedelic experience can help you understand yourself, but that is different from being seen, understood, and accepted by others. And this difference can sometimes be the difference between feeling stuck and feeling able to move forward. The hurtful experiences of our past often happened in relationship with others, and so it is in relationship to others that we heal. “We don’t heal ourselves or become our full selves by ourselves.”


Within this group container we more deeply understand and feel that we’re not alone. We realize that we don’t need to solve or fix our problems or others’ problems. There’s something about simply being witnessed and being present with ‘what is’ that feels restorative. 


Just like the earth has a natural inclination toward its own restoration and growth, we sense that our psyche has a natural tendency toward flourishing. A tendency that needs only the right conditions to heal and grow: a safe and strong psychological container, the daylight and clean air of being seen in our full expression, and the well of wisdom that flows from the center of your chest. 


One of the hardest parts about working with psychedelics can be after the experience when you go back to the patterns and realities of your day-to-day life within a modern society that in most ways does not support your wellbeing. This is a lot to carry alone. It’s too much to carry alone. Group psilocybin experiences knit connection. Just like the mycelial network under your feet connects plants by transferring nutrients and supporting the cycles of life, so too you’ll form relationships that are mutually supportive after the retreat. 


Perhaps the core reason why the group experience seems to add so much is because it’s a step toward our core fear of being vulnerable. Or for those who aren’t fearful, it’s at least a leap into the sense that we can only go so far alone.  


But what does it actually look like to participate in a group psilocybin journey?


First, we meet before the retreat to get to know each other and discuss important agreements related to confidentiality and boundaries. The retreat schedule has a healthy mix of group activities, solo time, and free time. Some people are more extroverted and some are more introverted, and we design the retreat in ways that accommodate both ways of being.


For the group journey, comfortable mattresses are arranged in a circle in an open room. Each participant has their own mattress, their own ‘nest’ as we like to say, with blankets and pillows, an eye mask, a journal, and a water bottle. While you’ll be next to other people, there’s a clear sense of boundaries. A sense that you have your own space. 


We’ll hold an opening circle conversation to prepare for the journey, and after the psilocybin is ingested there’s no interaction between participants. People start laying down, typically with eye shades on but are free to take them on and off at any time. Throughout the journey we play music from a speaker. Music serves an important role in each person’s journey experience, but that role can vary from being in the background as a gentle reminder of support to coming into the foreground and melding with their inner experience.


For most of the journey people are laying down or sitting in their nest, but getting up to move is okay and can be helpful. The facilitators have their spaces in this circle and pay close attention to the needs of each participant. We might move closer to some people to support them, to help them navigate a challenging experience, transcribe some notes in their journal for them, or be a listening ear. We may help people to the bathroom, or into a different room if some privacy is helpful. We’ll fetch more blankets, refill water bottles, and whatever else is needed for people to feel safe, comfortable, and supported. Our facilitation approach is primarily non-directive, meaning that we don’t presume to know your inner process. Our goal is to create a safe and supportive space for you to have your experience. If we play a more active role it’s for reasons of safety, or to help you through a challenging moment, or to remind you of the intentions that brought you to the experience.


Participants sometimes express big emotions during their journey as they process and release what’s coming up for them. Rather than this being a distraction to others it becomes additive to the group experience. Also, other participants can be so deeply inside their own journey that they aren’t aware of what others are doing. Before experiencing a group journey, some people worry about causing a distraction or being distracted by others. But after the journey one of the most common reflections from participants is how being with each other in the journey space was one of the most profound aspects of the experience and helpful to their own process in unexpected ways.  


At the end of the group journey there starts to be some natural interaction between participants, maybe an exchange of smiles or a simple nod of the head to acknowledge the sense that you’ve both returned from an odyssey that’s beyond words. Popcorn, chocolate, and fresh fruit are served as we sit in a comfortable silence occasionally broken by brief conversation or laughter. We hold a closing circle conversation to check-in with each other and set the stage for an evening of relaxation and reflection. 


It can be hard for some people to imagine laying down in a shared space with others for 6+ hours, but you’ll find that it actually feels quite natural within a psilocybin journey. For thousands of years the group experience has been at the heart of indigenous plant medicine traditions. This is not unlike the deep remembering that allows us to sit around a fire in silence for hours, even with people that we’ve just met. 


Following the retreat we meet virtually to share reflections on our journeys, the themes that emerged, and explore how we can carry those threads into our everyday lives.

Morning mist over a forest

"I was worried about having a journey with other people, but it was actually amazing. The experience was so powerful and connecting. I felt supported, safe and comfortable at all times throughout the three days."

- David

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