Updated: Jun 12, 2021
Tricia Eastman is a medicine woman and healing practitioner with experience in the shamanic and clinical backgrounds of psychedelic-assisted therapeutic modalities. Through her work, she offers a bridge between the scientific, cultural, and indigenous perspectives. She was a facilitator at the psychospiritual iboga program for Crossroads Treatment Center in Mexico and besides that, Eastman is a writer. Her book ‘Traversing the Innerverse: Plant Medicine, Ancestral Wisdom, and the Path to Transcendent Consciousness’ will be available in late 2021. As a speaker and advocate for the psychedelic movement, she has been involved in ongoing projects related to preserving sacred medicines and sites and cultural traditions.
In this edition of Amplify, let’s learn more about Tricia’s background in working with Iboga to help heal her eating disorder, her advice on choosing the right medicine to work with, how she is helping preserve sacred traditions and how she went on to start her own retreats.
This interview was conducted and transcribed by Lizzy Heller and condensed for clarity.
WOOP: Can you share a bit about your background and what led you to become a pioneer in the psychedelic movement and start your own retreats?
Tricia: I had an eating disorder that led me to work with ayahuasca about a decade ago. Then, in 2015, I met this guy who owned an ibogaine clinic in Mexico. I told him that if ibogaine could cure opiate addiction, then maybe it could work with food addiction too. He didn’t know but wanted to give it a try, so he sent me to his clinic in Mexico to get the treatment.
There, during my ibogaine journey, I had the mystical experience of becoming one with the divine. I felt this moment of singularity where everything merged, and I thought: if I’m one with this beautiful universe, how can I treat myself the way I do? How can I not love myself? I balled for hours and was in pure gratitude for the medicine.
After my treatment, I asked how I could be of service. Within three weeks, the clinic owner asked me to be a facilitator for his new psychospiritual program. He was creating this program for people who wanted to work with ibogaine for other things than addiction. From there, I started working at the center. I wanted to serve this medicine (psychedelics, ed.) and be open to whatever would come to me. I started my own retreats about a year later.
WOOP: What led you to start your own retreats?
Tricia: I realized that I wanted to learn more about traditions. Ibogaine is traditional medicine, and I knew that we weren't doing the ceremonies authentically. I'm Mestiza, South American indigenous and European mixed, with ancestors from Jalisco and the ancient Mayan Aztec, and something was activated inside of me when I started working in Mexico. I felt like something was calling me to my ancestral roots. That's when I began organizing retreats in Costa Rica and Mexico. I work there with two medicines; Ibogaine in Costa Rica and the Sonoran Desert Toad or 5-MeO-DMT in Tulum, Mexico.
My partner, who's a research psychologist, has published many papers on 5-MeO-DMT and ibogaine. I met him at the clinic when I was healing my eating disorder while he was there to heal his Lyme disease. He inspired me to get initiated in Gabon, because I knew it would cure his Lyme. Since then, we've been doing these retreats.
WOOP: How have your retreats changed since COVID?
Tricia: I’ve only organized private retreats with safety protocols and where I knew everyone was tested. Besides the issue of safety, having big groups of people come from all over the world is too expensive to produce at the moment. One of the houses I rent for the retreats is $25,000 a week, and if you cancel, they hold your deposit indefinitely until you can do it again. It’s a risky thing.
In the meantime, I’m planning a retreat center in the Portuguese Azores. We hope to start construction works in June.
WOOP: You have mentioned that your eating disorder was the reason you sought these medicines. How do these medicines help heal someone with an eating disorder, and are there other medicines you would recommend?
Tricia: I’ve noticed that people with eating disorders are empaths or highly sensitive to others feelings. They tend to process emotions for others or have an overactive mind and a hard time grounding. The only way of letting go of these emotions is through eating disorder behavior. Bingeing is a form of grounding and soothing yourself with food. It’s like having an addiction since it becomes an obsession with food.
If I would recommend something for an eating disorder, MDMA is a perfect place to start. When you take it intentionally, it can show you how to build healthy, nurturing habits. It’s important to really work with this intention to build positive behaviors and allow the medicine to lead you back to feeling, connecting and loving yourself.
In the MAPS conference for Psychedelic Sciences, there’s a good talk on ayahuasca and eating disorders. Ayahuasca is excellent because it teaches you about the feminine. Part of these abusive behaviors towards ourselves comes from judgment and negative self-talk. Ayahuasca can teach us to surrender, let go, and balance the neurotransmitters in the brain so we can connect to the feelings of love and nurturing. Ayahuasca, the mother plant, teaches us how to mother ourselves. If you were parenting the little girl with the eating disorder inside you, how would you take care of her? The first thing you would do is tell her how much you love her and how amazing she is. You would ask her what she needs and genuinely listen to her.
Sometimes we didn’t have that kind of mothering or nurturing in our lives. Our culture has been hypermasculine for a long time. We’ve digressed from ancient female arts, like being connected to our moon cycles and their ceremonies. Ayahuasca can teach us all of this when we embrace our femininity.
In my opinion, the most profound medicine is ibogaine. It’s the great-great-great-grandfather of medicine. It’s the most diverse, complex, holistic one in all the areas it treats. It gets down to the root of early childhood memory in the root chakra - the one that's all about core safety and security. Ibogaine teaches how to root down in and accept your experiences and traumas. Often, people have scenes from their childhood replayed, and more often than anything, it just cleans you. It has these reparative and regenerative effects that help you reset. In that reset, you get to choose how you want to move forward and live your life.
For me, ibogaine helped me to see and accept myself, understand how nature works, how life works, and what role I play as a part of it. I realized through my journey how small and narrowed my focus was. I could then see reality and my relationship with my body and food in a more expansive way.
Ask the spirit, put your prayers out there, set the intentions you want to work with and allow the medicine to show you the path to go. The medicine might take you to the 5-MeO-DMT, the bufo alvarius medicine. It would give you signs and then you would know if that’s the right medicine for you.
Another one that would be beneficial for eating disorders is Kambo. It’s a non-psychoactive poison that comes from the secretion of the skin of an Amazonian frog. They use the peptides from the poisoned skin to pull out all the impurities from your body.
WOOP: What are some of your projects related to the preservation of the sacred medicine’s cultural traditions and sites?
Tricia: I was in South Africa in 2019 with the Le Ceil Foundation, a non-profit for which I am involved with the Sacred Sites group of Holistic Visions. Together with a group of elders and people involved at different levels to preserve sacred sites, we created the first United Nations declaration of protection for sacred sites. Several organizations and government entities are starting to see how we can create land trusts and preservation vehicles to really protect these sacred lands. It doesn’t matter where you are. All the land should be guarded and protected, including the plants, like peyote, ibogaine, San Pedro, and Ayahuasca.
Around the same time, in 2019, the spirit came to me and said I needed to start Ancestral Heart, a platform to bring elders and experts together. We have conversations about what it means to be in reciprocity and what the future of healthcare looks like as we integrate the great spirit or creator into it. It’s a way to understand the holistic perspective of pharma and the psychedelic movement.
The idea behind the organization is to educate and spread the wisdom. We’re in talks now about partnering with an organization called Blessings of the Forest. They plant ibogaine trees and help with the preservation and cultural lineage of iboga. We’re doing a fiscal sponsorship and helping them get grants and fundraise.
We’ve had several events. At Burning Man, we did a big event, where the Zulu tribe from South Africa came with me to do performances and talks. Everyone was blown away by it, and we raised around $60,000. Burning Man was not very culturally diverse so bringing Africa to the burn was so important. Being Mestiza, I think it’s important that we all have the opportunity to connect to our ancestral heritage. It's our birthright.
Soon, I'll be coming out with a book: “Traversing the Inner Verse Plant Medicine Ancestral Wisdom and the Path to Transcendent Consciousness”. There’s a page at the end called “About the Elders.” It talks about twelve elders I also quote in the book. What work they’re doing and how people can directly support them if they feel inspired to do so. I will be giving some of the proceeds from the book to these elders as well.
WOOP: How would you advise people in choosing the right medicine for them?
Tricia: Ultimately the most important part is that you ask your spirit and ancestors to show and bring opportunities to you. They are always listening.
On the other hand, there’s a model I created, about three core spheres. I talk about it in my book. These core spheres are your level of experience in psychedelics, your level of trauma and your background in self-care and spiritual practices. To have the psychedelic experience you want, there has to be a balance between at least two spheres. For instance, if you have a high level of psychedelic experience and a high level of trauma, you’ll have a good experience because of the high level of psychedelic experience. Suppose you’re low in the area of spiritual practices. In that case, when you’re having a difficult time in the psychedelic experience, you don’t really have anything to use as a resource. Think of your breath or the connection to the heart. This can limit how far you can really surrender into the psychedelic experience.
MDMA is always a good - low on the scale experience meaning you can have a high level of trauma, a low level experience with psychedelics and still be relatively safe taking MDMA. I will say though there are some people that have overwhelming trauma still come up so ideally if you know you have a lot of trauma should always be working with someone who has the training, experience and understands how to support you. On the other spectrum of the scale is iboga. The experience can be hard for someone who has a lot of trauma, and it can be a hard time for those with an addiction. I’ve seen people go through opiate detox and it’s not fun. It’s a lot of purging and iboga is not really like a psychedelic experience, but it helps clean out the body. It’s not like you’re actually tripping, but some people have those experiences.
WOOP: What are your thoughts on microdosing and how would you inform people of doing it?
Tricia: Microdosing is a beautiful way to approach integration. But it’s important to consider what you’re microdosing with because some plants have sustainability issues. We have around 8 billion people on the planet. If a huge chunk of them microdose non-sustainable medicine, it won’t be around for people to do initiations and complete journeys. You wouldn’t want to microdose with iboga and peyote, but you could with psilocybin mushrooms. I love LSD for microdosing, although I don’t like working with it for journey work. I always tell people who use Ritalin for cognitive enhancements to get on LSD. It’s way better and much more of a high vibe brain optimizer and actually does positive things for your brain rather than short out your neurons.
WOOP: How do you think women can use psychedelics as a tool for healing, self-liberation and empowerment?
Tricia: As women, we’ve been conditioned in a culture where we see empowerment from a masculine framework. This framework is all about force, pushing, going non-stop and competition. I think women can create cohesion, coherence, cooperation, nurturing and most importantly, intuition. We can become leaders by honing those qualities within ourselves and by embodying the divine feminine goddess. In that, the woman is the most powerful archetype. Through her womb, she has a connection to the earth and to nature. The more she can understand how to harmonize with this nature, restore balance within herself, and connect, there’s nothing that can stop her.
WOOP: What are some of the biggest takeaways from your journey, including the people and plants you’ve worked with?
Tricia: There’s this saying that says: “I don’t expect miracles; I rely on them.” I love that quote. I truly believe that we move into a magical world through trust and surrender. A world where we can manifest the beauty that psychedelics show us. It’s only the mind that gets in the way because it projects into the future and expects to feel suffering. It just doesn’t know how to receive it. These medicines have really taught me how to receive.
They taught me to listen and allow the spirit to flow through me and be a vessel of these powerful energies that come through. Indigenous traditions call it the spirit or creator. I see this force of a web of life and the magic of weaving the web when you’re in that space of sacred powers within the spirit world. It never ceases to amaze me. Every day, I feel this richness of beauty because of truly serving from the right place and following and walking that path.