Read Sober Psychonaut disclaimer for people in sobriety exploring psychedelic medicin
As part of the comprehensive Mindbloom package, which includes not only your consult with a clinician, your prescribed ketamine pills, a trained guide or coach available to help you work through anything that comes up for you during ketamine treatment sessions, along with myriad online articles, soundtracks and supporting resources—you have access to Integration Circles.
These are small private groups of Mindbloom customers just like you who are on the ketamine treatment journey and are looking to “integrate” their experiences with the medicine by sharing with and listening to others via facilitated discussion. Here's how my Integration Circle went.
Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay
The ground rules: Heart-centered communication
One of the Integration Circle leaders reached out to me several times to work me into one of her groups but they always seemed to fill up quickly and my schedule never matched up.
One day she announced an open slot that worked and I was able to join the Zoom call with five or six other participants.
To ensure privacy, discretion, respect and presence, the leader of the Integration Circle had us agree in advance on “heart-centered communication,” defined as:
Several participants were dealing more with anxiety than with depression, but seemingly for many years and having tried many different types of medications and therapy.
One guy shared about ketamine therapy and how the experience of blank thoughts and blank mind have been so peaceful. He found that journaling was also helping and he was also sleeping better. Talking with his guide, he said, had been one of the most impactful parts of his experience.
“I can feel the pressure building up again,” he said. “There are definitely easy and hard weeks, and how to deal with each is greatly helped by my guide.”
Everyone in the group seemed to nod when the topic of thinking ketamine would be a magic pill, came up. Managing expectations was an engaging topic, from how intense a “trip” would be from one session to another, to what to expect between sessions, or at completion.
“The work,” as one participant pointed out, “is always in between sessions, and it’s up to me.”
Another girl explored the idea of boredom during ketamine therapy as there are moments of vacuousness where the ethereal music seems to just go on and on and you no longer feel like much of anything but a deep meditative state.
“I ask boredom, What I can learn from this?” she said. “Why is it showing up now and what does it have to teach me?”
I was the most emotional or had the most emotional experience to share as I reflected on my first ketamine treatment in which an emotional burst and message of loss and fear came up.
Ketamine integration circle wrap-up
Several of the participants were already at their sixth and final course of treatment and were looking to go deeper, an option to continue with other Mindbloom packages or to simply continue to integrate the experiences and insights they’d had so far to see what opened up in the coming weeks and months.
Among the rest of us, you could feel the anticipation of what the next ketamine therapy session would bring, and all the questions still remaining:
The chatter that’s always there. The human condition, just louder for some of us, perhaps.
So I was sitting at Poza Blanca Lodge having a lovely meal and journaling, enjoying the late-afternoon sun going down and digging the background music, a wide variety of songs that conjured happy feelings, like “Love is in the Air" and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."
Suddenly, a familiar synethesized orchestra began to play, then the plunky plunk, islandy-sounding lead-in to a song that took me instantly back to 1987 when the song "It's a wonderful, wonderful life" by British artist Black first came out. I spent a London semester abroad during the days of New Order and British New Wave bands. We listened to songs like this one day and night at our hostel in Pembridge Square, the same place where we pressed our noses up against the front dining room windows to get a glimpse of Lady Di dropping the little princes off next door at the Wetherby School every morning.
I hadn't heard the song in ages.
Who plays this song in Costa Rica? On a playlist of otherwise ordinary songs? It seemed so out of place and immediately got my attention.
The song was haunting and melancholy and happy all at once, as Black crooned, standing out there out on his own again, up straight in the sunshine, needing a friend, not wanting to be alone.
Now it was speaking to me in the mountains of Costa Rica as if my friend Sarah were still here. She died in 2014 of the craziest thing: colorectal cancer.
Now ask me if messages from the Universe aren’t for real given that I canceled three colorectal screenings last year and I’m sitting around writing about life, death, depression and the like.
Black was crooning, as if Sarah was channeling right through him, “It’s a wonderful, wonderful life."
I got chills, then tears in my eyes.
I still call her my sweet Sarah angel. I mean who loses a friend to colorectal cancer in their 40s? It’s so fucked up.
Anyway, I vowed to get in touch with my doctor about that damn test again. The message was not lost on me.
In case I missed it the first time
Then, my last night in Manuel Antonio I was sitting with my long-time friend and first-time travel buddy, Richele, at Raffael’s Terrazas looking out over the Pacific Ocean, which was bathed in golden sunlight. Richele was queuing up a song for one of our jungle videos.
“Wait, do you know what song that is? Oh my God.” She had picked a remake of “It’s a wonderful, wonderful life,” and I was momentarily dazed, like the message was coming through again.
Two weeks of “integration” after my last ketamine for depression therapy session and many moments in Costa Rica of feeling Good. Like myself, like a younger, happier, freer version of myself. One that’s connected to Life and Grateful to get up in the morning and Awed by things like pink-orange sunsets and magnificent ocean waves and vast beaches and fascinating animals and interesting people.
And here was that song again, chosen at random and she had no idea what it meant to me. But I knew Sarah had spoken⏤twice. From wherever she is, she had a point to make, multiple points to make perhaps.
And I got the message.
Read Sober Psychonaut disclaimer for people in sobriety exploring psychedelic medicine
As part of my ketamine therapy integration work, I took a winter walk some days before I left for Costa Rica and aside from the fact that it was icy and worth watching my footing, I found myself looking down the whole time.
When I realized my eyes were peeled to the ground, my neck was bent, my physical energy "jagged" in a way⏤I told myself, "Look up!" Metaphorical, as it were, for looking up not only at the sky but at life with a positive, upward view.
The next few times I walked or stepped outside, I had to force my head skyward, such was the tendency to look down⏤same as our tendency as humans to always find something wrong or negative, to hijack good things in life with "yeah buts" or "hopefully x won't happen" when everything's rolling along pretty well.
When I look to the sky, does it change anything?
Here's how looking to the sky instantly changes things:
Pride and posture
It instantly changes your posture, for one, so physically you're standing taller with spine pulled erect. That alone creates a feeling of confidence and pride in self.
Bigger things in life
Visually observing the sky reminds us of the vastness with-out, momentarily pausing the detrimental daydreaming (mindfuckery), reminding us to observe, "Hey, there's the sky. Wow, there's an airplane. Look, the trees are blowing in the wind." Looking to the sky stirs awe and wonder. All that's happening out there signals to us that there is far more going on in the world than what's going on in "here" (my, at times, deteriorated mental state).
The sky also prompts me to connect with God, the Universe, Spirit, whatever floats your spiritual boat. But something about looking up⏤it's as ancient as human history and wonderment at how it all began and how it all became and how it all will be.
"Look up, look up!" has become a mantra, of sorts, whenever my neck is bent too long on a phone or a mundane task or the monotony of my steps. It's a reminder not to tarry too long at things that don't inspire.
Navigating the psychedelic medicine universe as a sober person